Archive for Emotions – Page 3

And one for Elaine

On Thursday, at the age of 89, acting great Elaine Stritch died.

I first came to know Elaine Stritch as the hilarious Colleen Donaghy (Alec Baldwin’s Mother) on 30 Rock, the NBC comedy staring Tina Fey. She was truly  hilarious. Like Betty White, but more New York, more biting, and more of an alcoholic. She made me laugh so hard, from her short initial appearance on this show, that I decided to look her up, and see what else this funny old lady had done.

I soon realized, Elaine Stritch had lived the kind of life I had dreamed of living.

In looking her up, I found that I was watching a living legend. As prolific as  Angela Lansberry, and as influential as Gene Kelly, Elaine Stritch was show business personified. With four Tony nominations and one win, 8 Emmy noms and three wins, in a career that spanned seven decades, it is safe to say she was a pro.

I find her inspiring as an actor. But, there is much we can all take away from Miss Stritch, no matter your profession.

Elaine cut the bull shit. And in the acting world, this is a rare thing, indeed. She once told James Gandolfini she loved she work, and he said thanks and turned away without even making eye contact with her. Once his back was turned she said, “don’t you condescend to me, you son of a bitch.” He snapped around, and they became friends from that moment on.

She was always honest, even with her self. In this video, you can see just how hard on herself she was. But, it lead to a better product. Through her tough as nails, no holds bared working attitude, she got better and better at her craft, and left a theatrical legacy.

I say legacy, because she is being remembered by everyone from David Lettermen to Tina Fey. People across the country are having parties to watch her film and television productions in remembrance of her and her body of work.

I don’t want to be just like Elaine Stritch. She could be rude, dramatic, and at times difficult to work with because of how head strong she was. She was unflinching, and refused to change for anything.

I admire her for being herself. But, I want to be myself.

A performer I admire is gone. I know she will be missed by her fans and loved ones. I wanted to share a little context of her passing, because I think we could all stand to be a little less afraid, a little more brutally honest, a little more like Elaine.


My friend Lacey recently posted a poem on her blog. I thought it was wonderful, so I stole the format and made my own. 



“…The heavens have painted
have brushed you with angel wings.
And you know in your heart
that the farsighted see better things…”

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One that doesn’t need to talk the whole time. One who has the track list written on her heart, the lyrics etched into her bones like the trails of a termite. Someone who values the silence between tracks, knowing each second tells an important story. One who sees the road as an old friend that won’t judge you for opening another bag of trail mix and washing it down with a third cup of coffee. Someone who understands that singing Backstreet Boys doesn’t have to be ironic, and it’s okay to forget the words and drum along on the steering column.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One that believes mountains weren’t meant to be climbed in one day, and sees each wildflower as a study in color. She finds solace in the promise of eternity, knowing that we can’t see everything in one lifetime, so we may as well stop to make crowns from dandelion stems.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. Someone who doesn’t view relationships as trivia, where every detail must be extracted and memorized in as little time as possible. Someone who is content with hearing half of a story, knowing that the end isn’t always as important as the beginning. One who sees arguments as stepping stones, each one bringing us closer to one another’s eye level. One who realizes that my loyalty runs deeper than any miscommunication, I am far quicker to forgive than I am to anger. She knows that I am a stone, unmoved by the winds of temperament, unshaken by the tides of uncertainty.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One who sees me as a shelter, a place to spread out maps along the Path of Truth. Someone who doesn’t dig recklessly for my secrets, but lulls them out with the warmth and constancy of a sunbeam. Someone who knows that I literally stop to smell the roses, and isn’t offended when my attention is pulled away by a lilac bush or hummingbird.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. Someone who views sleepiness as the ultimate excuse for silliness. One who forgets certain words after midnight, creating new amalgamations to take their place. One who denies her tiredness as she sinks further into the cushions, welcoming the blanket when it’s pulled around her collarbone.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One who removes her makeup, not to spare the linens, but to invite vulnerability into the household. Someone who knows I look forward to the day when crow’s feet nest along my eyelids and smile lines carve into my jaw like rivulets. Someone who realizes that I see people’s flaws as salt upon a caramel, offering contrast and balance that reveals more of their inherent sweetness.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One that speaks with her sighs and sings with her eyes. One whose freckles tell stories older than herself. One who doesn’t mind when my fingers run along her jawline, memorizing every curve and inlet so not even blindness can rob me of her beauty. One who knows that I’m closing my eyes not to escape, but to lose myself in her scent, to hear the timbre of each breath as our diaphragms push and pull to match each others’ cadence.

I am looking for my co-pilot.

Until then, I have my cookbooks, my headphones, my bathrobe, my coffee, and my eyes aimed towards the mountains.

Life Support

Friday marked the last day of my internship. Today, I’m a free man with with my entire future ahead of me. Well technically, a free man with one more oral exam before I am all-the-way, one hundred percent done, but I’m not worried about it.

A year ago, I thought this moment was too far away to ever happen. Six months ago, I was driving myself crazy with the anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to get here.

But now that I’m here, all I can think about is how much I’ll miss what I’m leaving behind.

There were times my internship was a trial by fire and a sea of red tape. Sometimes those were the good days. But once I got used to it I realized that it was one of the few chances I’ll get to practice what I want to do, the way I want to do it.

And you know what? I grew into the role, and I did it well.

I remember my professors saying some variation of the following: “Why do you want to do this? You know it’s really hard and really long-term, right?” And I never really had any conviction behind the answers I gave them, nothing with anything real behind it. Lately that has been changing, and today I saw another way it has changed.

I know I want to be a counselor for as long as anyone will let me. I know this, because now that I won’t be seeing clients for a while, I feel something missing in my life. A part of myself that I really love has gone dim, and I know I won’t feel whole again until I can get it back.

But as far as problems go, how awesome is that? Who among the entire population of the world can say that their job makes them feel whole? In  a world where a job is more or less that thing you do for your kids until you die, I am unbelievably lucky to have that thing be something I love.

And though I feel some anxiety from all the changes that are about to happen both to and around me, namely two moves, a friend’s wedding, and some startlingly high monthly bill payments, I can’t help but think it’s all worth it.

Because at the end of the day, that job I complain about sometimes, the one that can really stress me out? I can’t live without it.

Sticker Shock

As I continue to take my first steps outside of the grad school world, I have to pause to consider what brought me to this point.

I often imagine there are people who would think that the choices I have made up to this point are bad ones. The idea of having spent more than 80,000 dollars on what is often considered the lowest paying Master’s degree in the country strikes some people as a stupid move.

If I had known that from at the outset of my education, I probably would have agreed with them. Truth be told, the only reason I tried for a Counseling degree was because it was the fastest way to flip my Psychology degree into a paying job. At first.

But luckily for me and my clients, the program I went to challenged me in ways I could have never seen coming. It forced me to take a long hard view at myself, my choices, and the world around me which shaped the two.

We have a societal view, I think, to see a career as something you do during the day that earns you money. There’s no reason for personal growth beyond what you need to do to keep earning a paycheck. But, from this blog and from the struggles I have seen, I am finding firmer footing to challenge that view.

My logic is simple, a person will spend most of their life working in their chosen field. An existence spent in a cubicle waiting for the day to be over doesn’t leave a lot of room for existential fulfillment. Which is probably why it pays so well.

I’ll never be a rich man. This degree is the vow of poverty I’ve taken for the shot at living something real and unique. To me, that’s a bargain at any price.

Of course, this may all be me trying to cope with the shock of the price tag, so take it with a grain of salt.

My takeaway is this: a career should be something that gives us meaning, not just a bank account. At the end of the day, money just does not equal a life well lived.

Finding a deeper meaning to life, however, is the only way to live.

Stormy Waters

Life never seems to run out of curve balls to throw. There are things in your life that will forever change how you look at the world, and they haven’t even happened yet. And you won’t even see them coming until it’s over.

One of those things happened to me today.

I can’t name names, because the other person involved asked for privacy, and I’m going to respect that. The short version is that a colleague of mine I respect very much had a medical crisis, and is now managing those very precarious waters. And the kicker? This morning, that person was as healthy as I am.

For someone like me, who has less than optimistic views around life and death, coming face to face with the fragility of life like that is jarring. More than jarring, it’s terrifying. Even the prospect of losing someone I care about is enough to tempt me back to bad habits. Isolating, ignoring the problem, and losing myself into the idiot box are all old habits that come knocking when life gets hard.

This time, I’m not letting the temptation win out. I’m dealing with this crisis in a better way.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to eat this comfort food in front of me (babybel cheese, chinese food, and a caramel apple), call Dan for a shoulder to cry on, and post this blog so the whole world can hold me accountable to the change I’ve made.

And tomorrow, I’m going to go in to work with my head held high, and give my clients the time and energy they deserve.

As for the person fighting for his or her health, I hope and pray for a speedy recovery.


First off, my theory paper. Read it at your leisure. But be warned; it’s a door-stopper.

Now, I want to mention a few things I’ve learned over the past week. Foremost, theory papers are exhausting. A close second, I’ve noticed closure is something you have to make happen.

During the very last week of grad classes that I will (hopefully) ever do, I noticed how much of it was the same song and dance that we’d been doing for years. That sense of finality in having reached the zenith was surprisingly absent, and the absence felt a little sore.

Maybe I was hoping for, I don’t know, more fanfare from the world at large? “Hey, look at that guy!” they would scream, “He has his Masters Degree!”

Cognitively, I know the world doesn’t work that way. Emotionally, I was hoping for the clouds to part, the heavens to thunder, and the Almighty to come down from on high to give me a high five. Instead, I’ll be in Spokane for half the summer finishing my internship hours . Funny the effect expectations have.

As I keep telling myself, this is not the end, it is the beginning. The beginning of my career as a counselor.

Still, meaning is what you make it, and here’s mine: everything ends, from grad school to the milk in the fridge to life itself.

You can’t avoid that. But, that doesn’t mean that endings are bad. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s those endings that give meaning to what we do accomplish. I may not have the clear-cut closure I would like from my education, but here’s the irony.

Because of that education, I can see the importance of closure.

Ceremonies and Rituals

Here’s something I’ll probably never be able to write again: by the time you read this sentence, I will have graduated from Gonzaga.

Unofficially, of course. Officially, I still need to finish my Internship hours, revise a theory paper, take my ProSem class, sit for my orals, and start applying for jobs.

This is far from the closure I would prefer. But you know what? I’m finding out that that is one of the big challenges of life: to draw our own meanings from a sticky, complicated existence.

I hear about similar stories from my clients all the time, about how what should have been a major life event was drained of its joy by its complications. I’m trying to make sure I learn from their mistakes.

Even a week ago, I didn’t really care about the graduation ceremony. To me, it was just another excuse for the school to siphon my money for the privilege of sitting in an unventilated gym. Clearly, not the best use of my emotional energy, especially not for a new mental health grad.

Instead, here’s how I’m trying to picture it. My family, who I actually do care about, would like to see me up there getting my degree. If it’s important to them, it’s important to me. The meaning, like the actual diploma, will have to come later, through pictures and memories that have long since outlived the boredom.

Just Seven Things

Seven Web

I’m trying to look at things differently. Turns out my clients were right; it’s really hard.

For me, change is a thing that digs deeply quickly. I’m a ponderer, I think out the things that I do, and can quickly create reasoning for my behavior. As a result, everything I do that doesn’t work out for me is  a symptom of a sick society.

We all do it sometimes (it’s called cognitive dissonance). We don’t want to acknowledge a feeling we have, so we drown it in context and situation. We kill it with cognition. The anxiety doesn’t go away, but we can blame it on something abstract, something outside of ourselves. We’re not changing what made us feel bad, we’re changing the ambiguities around the excuses we’ve made. This is what has been tripping me up for most of my life, I think.

I’ve been thinking about how to change it.

We know from the science that are seven basic emotions. Every human being on the planet has them, we’ve had them since we were monkeys. We make them much harder than they need to be.

Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Contempt, Disgust, Surprise.

That’s it. They may mix, increase, or decrease, but those are what we have. You’d think owning seven different parts of ourselves would be easy. Yet the failure to do so is the cause of most conflicts on the planet.

Just seven things, but we don’t own them because we don’t like what they tell us. Fear tells me I am not as in control of the situation as I think. Anger and contempt tell me just how much of a jerk I can be. Sadness reminds me that everything has to come to an end.

Facing our emotions means facing the things that make us weak and temporary. But without them I truly believe change is impossible. Emotions are the rabbit trail that lead me to the core of who I am, and until I follow them through what brambles and briers may follow, they won’t lead anywhere but in circles.