Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bad therapy

In French, the origin of rejeter is more obvious than it is in English. Jeter is “throw”, and re is … um, “re”. That's “back” and “throw”. Or “again” and “throw”. In English, “throwback” is something entirely other. But in a sense, it isn't, either, is it? Because when I feel rejected, it calls up all this rolodex of bad memories from the past. It's a throwback feeling.

The word, at least its etymological roots, suggest something more violent than it really is – we are rarely actually thrown, I hope. But it still feels that way. Our brains respond to it exactly as they would to physical pain. It makes rejection something worth avoiding.

A year and a half ago I stopped seeing a therapist I'd been seeing since before cancer. I went to her because of my sugar binging (which she never took seriously) and my difficulty organizing my career (about which she never proved helpful.)

At that time, I found that she and I had gone down different paths. She had not understood, since at least half a year ago, why I found all of my reading about Asperger's syndrome so comforting, so affirming (more on that another time), and I generally found her suggestions unhelpful. Redo my website by the next time we meet? Seriously? Anyone who has ever done, or redone, a website, will know what a tall task that can be, logistically and emotionally.

Other things bothered me, such as her suggestion that I consider meditating (I've been a serious meditator since before we flipped the millennium) – and that I needed anti depressant pills (even though I really didn't want them at that time) and that I was resistant to therapy and was likely to have conflicts with any therapist (as though my reluctance to accept unproven authority figures was a fault) and that I complained too much for too long ... okay, I can see that last one.

My favorite, though, is that she said we should have stopped the sessions a long time ago, but she had needed to deal with counter transference, to whit, her imposing her own relationship issues on me. Wha...?

She listed everything in the paragraph above (and then some) in the last session we had, just after I told her that I didn't want to engage in therapy any more. Talk about a doorknob surprise.

I had wondered about the usefulness of the therapy sessions before, testing the waters to see what I thought, what she thought. I guess that was my own, ignored, warning that I should have gotten out of there, fast.

One and a half years ago, I was sad sack me. Crying, anxious, a complete wreck. My friends helped, a lot. They propped me up from my quivering, twitching, disturbingly dusty and full of cat hair place on the floor. They listened to me cry, question my worth, wonder if there was something seriously wrong with me. One suggested that it was like a bad break up, another said it would be comical if it wasn't so not, and another suggested I ask for my money back.

The thing is, it was rejection from someone I no longer wanted to hire. Interesting, right? Rejection from those we ourselves have rejected still hurts!

I have only one choice about the pain, which is that I must absorb it and move on, but I have a lesson I can learn for the future. If I take seriously the “throw back” version of rejection, then I should be grateful for rejection. Because if I never got anything back, I would live in a vacuum. If I never got anything back, I wouldn't know which path was the right one. 

I'd like to emphasize that it's not being me that's getting thrown back. 

Bats! Here's an analogy: echolocation. If I don't hear return squeaks, I won't know where the walls are, and where there's beautiful night sky.

I have no complaints whatsoever.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Traveling in France by Bicycle

I traveled from Calais to Pont L'Eveque on my own twice.

The second time around I brought my bike. I bought a rack for the back, so I could strap my things to it. I'd brought my sleeping bag to England, and so I strapped it to the back of the bicycle. I know I brought my bag because the wild farm kitten I later acquired developed a dependence on that sleeping bag, and when I lost it nine years later she died within the year.

Anyhow, the bike rack didn't fit. It rubbed at the bike frame, stripping off bits of fancy iridescent paint, exposing metal that would later rust. I used a too thin bolt and nut so I could cobble it together. This made a rattle the whole trip.

I also bought a yellow poncho. It didn't occur to me until it was later pointed out by local youths (on a moped, always with those mopeds), outside a French MacDonald's that, along with my curly red hair and my wine colored Danskos, I bore an unflattering resemblance to someone who is not one of my role models. They circled around the roundabout twice to get a better look, laugh and point.

What was I doing at a MacDonald's, anyway? I must have needed to use the bathroom.

My relationship to French adolescents was not positive. A couple of them had already stolen my bike tools from my rack, as I had made my way into the brush to pee. They, too, hooted and hollered in their gleeful booty seizing.

Back to England. I hadn't started off from my base in Cambridge very early. I think I must have left from Robert and Jan's campus house, and certainly left later than I meant to. By afternoon, I was in a small town south of London, layers of clothes tied around my waist, wearing my rust colored tank top, and sitting soaking up the sun with my loaded down bike finally propped off to the side. I felt happy, and free. Which was clearly the wrong pose to adopt, because two anxious looking, uptight young men in railway uniforms walked up, ready to shoo me away as a vagrant. Luckily for me, I had a ticket, and they left me alone.

Relative to these guys, I felt gloriously wild.

On the train I got, and stopped at every dinky village between there, wherever there was, and the white cliffs of Dover. This train had green velvet interiors, upholstered doors with individual cars, turning handles in a beautifully unmodern style. It looked just like the illustrations from Alice Through The Looking Glass. The train and ferry combination was cheap, now that the Eurostar had taken over the path between Paris and London, and I was grateful for it.

It only occurs to me now to wonder how much Dover and Calais suffered after that transition.

On the ferry, there was a middle aged guy, not sane looking, with his moped. He made an overture to me, in French. I ignored him.

I arrived at Calais at night, even later than I had the first time around. I don't remember if I had more or less money than the tiny amount I'd had the first time around, but it didn't matter. The hostel was long closed.

I biked off toward the dunes, vaguely thinking, after several impromptu camping experiences on the dunes of Provincetown on Cape Cod, that this was a solution to my night's woes.

Unfortunately, the guy on his moped followed me. He watched me stop at the hostel, trying to get in. In the background, when no one came to answer, he made crude sex gestures with his hips, and pointed at me. I shouted to him to go away.

I got back on my bicycle and started toward the beaches, hoping to lose him. No luck. I was over on the bike trail, and he was on the road, and he continued his pelvic thrusts, as if I had simply been too slow to understand the first time around. I was getting scared. “No!” I shouted at him. In an attempt to get away, I slammed on my breaks – good old bicycle was forgiving – and whipped around in a one eighty. I biked hard for the nearest houses, and he, on his slower, heavier to turn moped, followed as soon as he managed. I started banging on a door. Really terrified now, I shouted for help. Finally, the door opened. It was a man, heading toward his thirties, in slippers and a dressing gown. His older mother, likewise, ambled out with a dressing gown. Both of them looked at me with distrust, her much more than him.

I should say at this point that it would be a while before I could claim to speak French.

I got out my little plastic covered Berlitz English French dictionary. I tried to ask for the police. They both looked confused, and she looked at me with hostility. He eventually understood, and pointed in the direction of the police office, one or two kilometers that way, he seemed to say. Closed, he seemed to say. Then he closed the door. I was nearly crying.

Great. World's most skilled at getting lost girl, with creepy moped man pelvic communicating on moped tries to find closed police station in an unknown city at two in the morning...

But the guy was gone. I'd seen him motor off as soon as the door had opened. He clearly had more faith in the local populace than was warranted. I'm not sure what made me trust that he wouldn't just be hiding around the corner, but I went, cautious as a cat, back to the dunes. There was a chain link fence, taller than me. Somehow, I not only climbed it in my clogs, but also managed to get my thankfully lightish bicycle over it. I hid in their depths, loving those dunes, and spread my soft nylon sleeping bag out, and tried to sleep. I caught a few hours before the sun rose, and then I put my bag away and got my bike back over, with much less ease now that the adrenaline had gone.

Did anyone come to tell me, at dawn, that I wasn't supposed to be there? I have fuzziness around this memory. I think I may have been told, as I was packing up. No matter. One crazy man's belief in the kindness of strangers, and my own experience of the kindness of the landscape saved me from a horrible experience that night.

Monday, November 28, 2016

No right to complain: Artist dissing

According to Psychology Today, this is the definition of a micro aggression
everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

As a woman, redheaded and bisexual at that, I have certainly experienced microaggressions. But one of the small and common put downs that hurts me the most has nothing to do with being female or queer, and therefore probably doesn't qualify for the definition, although it still fits the frame.

Yep, poor, privileged me: I'm tired of being put down for being an artist.

Artist friends and I talk about the discomfort of self identifying as an artist. Maybe the push back from the world that we feel is because of lack of financial success. I have heard many variations on the theme of “What a luxury that you get to spend all your time on this fun hobby! Aren't you so lucky? I wish I could indulge in my creative side the way you do!” Or, “Yeah, being an artist isn't much to brag about.” Or, “Calling yourself an artist just sounds so pompous to me.” (All of the above were said to me by non-artists.)

So, even writing that, my breathing has gone shallow, my stomach hurts, my heart is pounding, my upper lip is sweating, and I'm starting to see spots. Seriously.

But I feel compelled to examine this closely. This sometimes implied and sometimes explicit line has been delivered to me all my life, starting with my father telling me, in high school, that no, being an artist was not a good career, but something to do on the side. Farming, on the other hand …

This question severely affects my self worth. Now my kidneys hurt – adrenal glands – and it's getting just a wee bit ridiculous. 

Time for a walk and some meditation. Check back in.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Lost Mountain Blues at Squam Lake

I just spent a weekend at Squam Lake, as part of the SCBWI retreat, at the site where On Golden Pond was filmed. 

The swimming was wonderful, the loons lonesome sounding, and the Milky Way visible. Got to make some lovely, engaging friends. 

Also, I had the great pleasure of getting a one on one session with one of the editor/mentors, the very kind Arianne Lewin, of Penguin Random House.

To which I arrived sixteen minutes late, nearly in tears, because first I got lost on West Rattlesnake Mountain for two hours.

Intending to do a loop, I went up the steep side. At the top, sweating, I enjoyed the view, but didn't linger, because I'd wanted to catch a quick shower before my meeting.

So, then I went down the wrong side of the mountain, and didn't notice. 

When I got down to the road, no clue that it wasn't even the right road, I alternated sprinting and fast walking. I was sure that the camp was just around the corner. At the office they'd said 10 minutes, but what did they know? (hah hah hah...)

20 minutes later, I figured that this was taking too long. Tried getting directions to Rockywold-Deephaven from passers by, who had no idea where I was talking about. One group of guys suggested going back up to the top of the mountain, which I considered, even though this would take at least an hour.

I was getting desperate. And trying not to cry. Too old to cry about getting lost.

Nearly forty minutes after reaching the base of the mountain, I found a kind family who were sitting in their car, at the base of an entirely different mountain, who helped me. They drove me all the way back to the camp. Wow. So grateful!

Confession: Not the first time this has happened to me (including being driven home by a kind stranger.) I've done this in the Alps, and in the Welsh mountains. Maybe it's time I learn the art of orienteering. Or just stay off mountains when I'm by myself, right? But no, that would be too easy, and I'm stubborn.

So, here's something comical: the site where we were staying for the SCBWI retreat was simultaneously hosting something called “Becoming an Outdoors Woman.” Clearly, I was enrolled in the wrong program.

Did you notice the mountain name? West Rattlesnake. That makes no sense, to me, for New Hampshire.

Or that rattlesnake was even more lost than I was.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

PTSD versus Resilience

What allows a reported 45 % (according to the article on PTSD in the New England Journal of Medicine – written by Rachel Yehuda, Ph. D.) of rape victims not to experience PTSD? (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

I am fascinated, especially in light of the moving letter from the young woman in the Stanford rape case, that any woman would be able to move on with her life without crushing psychomedical reverb.

I imagine, aside from the 55 percent who experience PTSD, that a significant portion still experience long term debilitating consequences. Depression, nightmares, and health complications aren't restricted to PTSD diagnoses.

I'm reading the Yehuda article as closely as I can. It's dense stuff. 

“Patients with chronic PTSD have increased circulating levels of norepinephrine and increased reactivity of a2-adrenergic receptors. These alterations, in tandem with the finding that thyroid hormone levels are increased in patients with PTSD, may help explain some of the somatic symptoms of the disorder.” (page 110)

Adrena mmph mmph? Adrenergic: working with norepinephrine or adrenaline/epinephrine (adrenaline and epinephrine are the same thing, just different name. Norepinephrine and noradrenaline are the same thing. Thank you for confusing me further … )

Okay, thyroid hormone, I know what that is – that bowtie organ at the back of your throat, without which we have no energy and our brain goes lame. 

Norepinephrine? Stress hormone, neurotransmitter, produced by the adrenal medulla (inner part of the adrenal gland, on top of the kidneys) and in the brain. It affects the fight or flight reflexes in the sympathetic nervous system, accelerating heart rate, restricting blood vessels, raising blood pressure. Wikipedia sources one and two.

“Prospective studies have shown that patients in whom PTSD, or symptoms of PTSD, develop have attenuated increases in cortisol levels in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, which may be related to prior exposure to a traumatic event or other risk factors. They also have higher heart rates in the emergency room and one week later than persons in whom PTSD does not develop. These findings suggest that patients with PTSD have a greater degree of activation of the sympathetic nervous system.” (page 112)

What the above paragraph says to me is that the author is wondering if people who experience PTSD have a history of past trauma.

How do people remain resilient? How do people heal from a traumatic event without developing PTSD?

Page listing symptoms of PTSD here

Friday, May 27, 2016

Copyright confessions


Copyright is tricky. I deal with it all the time.

Who would have thought being an artist would lead to such a concern for the law? Spirit of it, at least.

Will my own images be used without my consent?
Am I taking advantage of any photographers by using their work?

I try, very hard, to be respectful of photographers. They work to get the subject, the perfect shot, and they work to make it better, and then they put it online for all the world to see, hoping, just like I do, that no one will steal their work.

Usually, I get my images from sites where photographers post their photos for free use. Sites like morguefile.com, or, when usage has no conditions, Wikipedia. Occasionally, I remember to cite their names, even when the sites doesn't ask for that. Seems like the least I can do, and, all too often, more than I do.

Some photos on Wikipedia have a share and share alike term of usage, meaning that, if I paint one of the animals from one of their gorgeous photos, I would have to make the image of my painting free, too.

Not the painting itself, but still. That's days worth of work. Not feeling that generous, apparently.

Here, I listen to the counsel of my savvy neighbor: what if an editor wanted to publish an anthology of paintings, but the share freely clause meant copyright issues?

Share and share alike beautifulness, by Henry Whitehead, on Wikipedia:

Nullarbor Dingo

And the Paul Copeland photo I ended up using, from morguefile.com, also beautiful:


Thank you, Paul! And maybe I will paint Henry's photo, too, because I just can't help myself...

Question: Am I not being supportive of the photography community by using photos people post for free?