Life in the Time of Coronavirus: Health Care

The medical clinic where I am a patient sent out an email notice that they were limiting nonessential treatment to give priority to treatment for the coronavirus. I wasn’t sure what that would mean in practice. Fortunately, I don’t have COVID-19 but I have had need for health care for other conditions. Here’s my story.

On a recent Saturday afternoon when Dave and I were walking our dog, Paddy, I started to feel pain in my left eye. The pine pollen was thick and, when the wind blew, it swirled in a cloud around us. I have no idea if that contributed to my eye pain. It certainly kicked up my allergies. A few hours later I noticed my eyelid was swollen. It got more painful that evening and the next day. Sunday night I took a photo. Dave helped me load it on my laptop and resize it to send to my doctor with a note on their online portal.

Monday morning I called the clinic. Dr. V, my primary physician, wasn’t there but I was able to get a 9 am appointment with a doctor new to me, Dr. W. It was quiet in the waiting room when I arrived. The magazines on side tables were gone. Only one check-in window of the usual five or six had someone behind it. When the nurse escorted me back, I passed an office with a sign “Video session in progress.” Dr. W examined me and diagnosed allergies. She advised me to go home and change my sheets, take Zyrtec and antihistamine eye drops and start washing my hair in the evening to wash out the pollen. After I left, I got the recommended OTC allergy medicines and went home to follow her instructions.

Soon thereafter, I was surprised (and impressed) to receive a call from Dr. V. She had seen the photo and thought it was a stye. I told her I’d been seen and diagnosed with allergies.

My eye got steadily worse. The pain felt intense. I thought allergies were itchy, not painful. Gradually the entire area around my eye seemed swollen. I posted another photo on the clinic website. The next morning I called again. I still couldn’t see Dr. V but got an early appointment with Dr. M. He called and suggested we do this over the phone rather than having me come in again. I told him I had posted two photos. He looked at them and asked me to post another. He wanted to rule out Shingles. Shingles? I had suffered through the two Shingles vaccinations a few months before. Each one gave me three days of flu-like symptoms. You can still get it, he told me. Dave helped me take another photo, resize it and post it. Dr. M responded with a message saying I had probably had a stye and now had periorbital cellulitis. He called in two antibiotics to my pharmacy. He recommended that I aggressively apply hot compresses to my eye as well.

Ah! Relief was on the way. I started the antibiotics that day as well as the hot compresses. In a day or two, my eye felt noticeably better. Thank you, Dr. M.

But a few days later, my left ear began to feel clogged. I had a drippy nose and was sneezing a lot. I tried in vain to unclog my ear. If I did succeed in getting it to open up, it quickly clogged again. I felt like my head was full of cotton. I sent another message to Dr. V. I love being able to do this. The next morning, I got a call from Dr. V’s nurse, offering me a video session with her. Yes! We set it for 10 am. She instructed me to get on their website 20 minutes ahead and answer a questionnaire. I did and soon was talking to my doctor by video. She told me my eye looked good and I looked beautiful. Aw, she’s so sweet. I love my doctor. I told her about my clogged ear and drippy nose and we were back to a diagnosis of allergies. Allergies are terrible this year, she said. She wrote me a prescription for Flonase and instructed me to take Zyrtec. Well, I already had a new bottle of Zyrtec so I was set.

She said the clinic was doing more video sessions because of coronavirus. Do you have cases? I asked. Not yet, she said, but we expect we will and we don’t want anyone else to come in if we can help it. Ten days later, my eye looks almost normal. Even better, my allergies are much more under control. I was relieved to find I can still get health care for other conditions.

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Life in the Time of Coronavirus: Connecting Remotely

In this strange new world of sheltering in place, I am exploring the modern world of remote connections. I have participated in Quaker worship using Zoom and in a Voices Chorus rehearsal using Zoom. Next week my book group will meet using Zoom. I enjoyed seeing the familiar faces of friends on my laptop screen. It’s perhaps a poor substitute for in-person visiting and does take some getting used to, but it’s the best we have for now.

At first I was skeptical of holding silent Quaker worship via Zoom. I mean, sitting in silence in a room full of Friends is one thing, but doing so with my laptop on the coffee table in front of me is another. Nevertheless, Dave and I sat on the couch and clicked the link our host had sent. This time was an experiment with the Ministry & Worship Committee and a few others for a trial run. As people joined, their smiling faces popped up on the screen. We were welcomed and given instructions. Run your cursor over the screen to view the mute button in the bottom left corner (it looks like a microphone). Click on it to mute yourself as we settle into worship (you will see a diagonal red line appear across the microphone). If you have a message to share, click the mute button again to allow your voice to be heard, give your name and your message. Then mute yourself again and settle back into silence. All properly muted, we began to center down. I closed my eyes and was surprised how much like worship in the meeting room this felt. A Friend spoke and her face moved to front and center of the screen. Others were arrayed in small squares along the top of the screen with an arrow indicating how to access the rest of the lineup. I opened my eyes to watch her face as she quoted Teresa of Avila, a message of being of service to others. I settled back into silence. One couple had apparently not figured out how to mute themselves so I could hear shifting in the chair and other noises from their room. Sadly, when one of them felt moved to speak, she muted herself. Then we were cut off. The Zoom free session is 40 minutes long. We had miscalculated.

Lengthy email conversations followed in the next few days. We decided we liked this method of worship enough to open a low cost basic account to allow a longer time. An invitation went out to the Meeting as a whole to join us next Sunday. And we’re off.

The next experience I had was with a Voices Chorus rehearsal via Zoom. Our Voices president, with a premium Zoom account, set this up for us. Our conductor and accompanist gathered at his church while the rest of the small group of 16 joined from their living rooms. He used his Verizon phone hot spot to get online, and we began. Dave and I sat at the dining room table in good light with music in hand. Because there is a time lag of a few seconds, we were not able to sing together. We each muted our sound and sang along as Stephen conducted. Of course I, a soprano, was singing next to Dave, a baritone, and had the challenge of holding my part while hearing his part. I discovered a button at the top right of the screen that let us go to gallery mode. This gave a mosaic of small squares of faces of those on the call. Even if we couldn’t hear each other, I enjoyed seeing the faces of my fellow choristers. Singing for me is soul food. Despite being unable to hear the group as a whole, I found it refreshing. After we worked on several pieces, we all unmuted ourselves for evaluation. We agreed this is better than nothing. We will invite the entire chorus of 100 people for next Tuesdays regular rehearsal. This should be interesting.

Ah, technology, what a gift. To see our friends while we self-quarantine at home. A fellow singer called this a choirantine and gave us all a good laugh. Another friend told me that Zoom is our new best friend. I agree.

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Life in the Time of Coronavirus: May the Forest Be With You

Sheltering at home has its challenges. Even sleeping later, we accomplish our morning routine with lots of time left to fill. I read the newspaper (yes, I still get the paper) and read several sites online. The news is, shall I say, far from uplifting. It is downright depressing. When I consider the problems with adequate testing for corona-virus, my blood pressure rapidly elevates. The WHO had test kits we refused. South Korea took them and managed to test 10,000 people a day, allowing them to track the spread and quarantine appropriately. They are far ahead of us in containing this pandemic. Instead, we are all shutting down, staying home, and engaging in endless social distancing as people lose jobs and restaurants offer take out only. Don’t get me started.

Fortunately, as I checked my email, I found a newsletter from Michael Yapko, Ph.D. When I was in practice as a clinical social worker, I attended several of his workshops and trainings in Erickskonian Hypnosis. I learned a lot from him. Reading his words, I got reminded to focus less on these overwhelming problems I have no control over and turn my focus to what I can control. Ah, yes! I knew this.

I start with tidying the kitchen. How do all these little items accumulate so quickly? I throw away used napkins and tea bag envelopes, empty the dish drain, wipe the counters. Then I notice my droopy plants and water them. I pause to admire my work and notice I feel better.

Yesterday the phone rang at 8 am. “Are you expecting me today?” It was Toby, our house cleaner.

“Yes indeed!” I replied. I figured a clean house was top priority these days.

She was grateful. “A lot of my clients have cancelled.” When she arrived, she immediately washed her hands thoroughly in the sink and set to work. We are all symptom-free and kept the recommended distance from each other. Now we have a clean house. When I bid her adieu at the from door, I saw blue sky and felt warm temperatures. What a nice day!

I asked Dave if he wanted to go for a walk in the woods. Paddy, our 90 lb. Black Lab mix, heard the word “walk” and began dancing. We piled into the car and headed out to Whitfield Road. The first entrance to Duke Forest had a half dozen cars lining the road so we chose the second with one car. It’s my favorite hike and leads to what I call the Magic Forest where there’s a concrete bridge across New Hope Creek and high bluffs across the stream. I’ve been coming out here forty or more years. I feel like I’m in the mountains far away from civilization. We passed a couple pushing a stroller on their way out. The tiny toddler hollered “Doggie!” as we passed. Timid Paddy panicked and tried to pull Dave away from the eager little one. He’s a natural at social distancing. We barely saw anyone else. What a lovely place to practice social distancing. Trees were mostly bare but beginning to bud.

We left the main trail at the concrete bridge, stepping over roots and rocks, to walk along the creek. The path was clearly marked with blue circles on the trees. Paddy got his nose stuck several times, delirious with the smells he found. Green leaves peeked up along the trail. Dave thought these were called trillium, but neither of us has a memory for plant names. Whatever they are called, we enjoyed seeing them. The water gurgled over rocks in the shallow water. Then we came to a quiet expanse of creek with not a ripple on the water. We paused a moment to let our souls expand then paused another moment when we reached more gurgling water.

By the time we turned back, I was warm enough to have to take off my sweatshirt and carry it. At home, Paddy made a bee-line to his water dish. Next time we must remember to bring his collapsible bowl in addition to our water bottles. This had been a soul-refreshing break. All my troubles seemed to have faded away inhaling the fresh air and listening to the song of the forest. I felt happily tired and ready for a long nap.

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Life in the Time of Coronavirus

I can sleep as long as I want. Nothing to get up for anyway except the usual morning routine of washing, dressing, making coffee, walking the dog. Dave feeds him while I cook breakfast. While we eat, we listen to NPR describe the ongoing crisis in parts near and far. When breakfast is finished, I move to the recliner in the living room with my tablet and read from various online sources further developments. Dave cleans the kitchen and soon joins me. Before long, I have had enough news. It all blurs together into one comprehensive crisis with true leadership coming mainly from local and state public servants.

“Shall we meditate?” I ask. It has become our morning habit: to light a candle on the bedroom dresser and sit in our chairs by the two windows on either side of it. He starts the online timer for twenty minutes and we settle in. A few slow deep breaths bring me to myself. I am tired, deeply tired. The past two months have been full of unusual family stress, people dying, getting sick, marriages breaking up or not, offering what help I can, waking at 4 am with worry. I feel grateful for my ever patient trustworthy mate. Maybe a time of retreat will be good. Inside my mind, I repeat the familiar phrases, focus on those closest to me: May I be well, may I be free from suffering, may I have the ease of well-being, may I be happy, may I be free from all forms of danger and harm.

Later I have a hair appointment. My hairdresser and I have an email conversation about whether to postpone my hair cut. I suggest continuing with thorough hand washing by both of us. She agrees. After all, this is her livelihood. My hair has already been washed so it doesn’t take long. She wets it just enough and snip snip it’s done. Then blow dry and pay. I use a card rather than cash. She provides a wet wipe for me to clean my card and hands. I even wipe my phone screen which is over due. We wish each other to stay well and I leave.

Over lunch, we decide to give a donation to the Interfaith Council for Social Services. We recognize our privileged position. We are retired and comfortable. The homeless, the poor and hungry people in our community will surely be hardest hit by this crisis.  I go online to their website and in a few clicks I’m done. It’s so easy.

I’m 72 now and enjoy time after lunch to rest. I write in my journal my reflections of the day then pick up my latest novel. I don’t really nap but, if my eyes grow heavy, I close them. The novel I’m reading is a sad one, The Gathering by Anne Enright. I don’t mind at all when I sink into a brief oblivion. Maybe it will end on an uplifting note. I’ll find out soon, maybe tomorrow. I’m almost finished. Then I’ll choose another. With one click, I can buy it on my Kindle. It’s so easy and, yes, another sign of my privilege. And yes, humans have been through such times before. I reflect on the mystery of being taken down for a time by something we cannot see.

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Fifty Shades of A Female Fantasy

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has turned out to be quite a phenomenon as it explores a hot topic (pun intended). Since the movie came out, there have been even more reactions to the story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. Reading a few of these, I’m not convinced that those reacting have read any or all of the entire trilogy. I myself might have been dissuaded from reading it by all the negative hype if a therapy client of mine hadn’t told me about it. I had read part of the first book and put it down because it was–how shall I say this–quite erotically stimulating. (It also reminded me, a post-menopausal woman with a sleepy libido, that I’m not dead yet. Hooray!)

When my client mentioned it–even said she owned the books and was reading them for the second time– I asked her to tell me more. “He changed his entire life so he could be with her,” she told me. Wow. I picked them up again. I have just finished reading the third book.

This story is a female fantasy, or, in other words, a wish, a longing, a dream for one’s life. They come in as many forms as there are human beings. When a dream becomes a fantasy it gets filled out into a story. It’s not something you actually expect to come true but it sure does feel good to imagine.

Female fantasies are often about relationships. Think about a mistreated stepdaughter forced to sweep the cinders on the hearth while her two stepsisters go to the Prince’s Ball . Through the magic of her fairy godmother, she goes to the ball, meets the prince and—you know the rest— they get married and live happily ever after. Yes, a fairy tale.

Or Anastasia Steele, an inexperienced, new college graduate who meets Christian Grey, five years older, handsome, fit, rich and very interested in her. Contrary to what you may have heard, they do not begin an abusive relationship. When he learns that he would be her first sexual partner, he sets aside his BDSM practices and suggests they begin by making love. Melting at the thought, she agrees. Her first sexual experience leads to her first intensely pleasurable orgasm and then to several more as the night goes on. Now she knows what all the fuss is about! Yes, it is a fantasy. A woman’s first sexual experience does not always result in even one intensely pleasurable orgasm. But wouldn’t it be great if it did?

Thus they begin to negotiate what kind of relationship they might have. He presents a lengthy legal contract for her to sign her agreement to engage in a dominant-submissive relationship with him, which is all he knows. Bewildered and despite her nearly overwhelming desire for him, she refuses to sign. What she really wants is to get to know him better and have him as her first regular boyfriend. That could have been the end of it, but they each find the other fascinating. So they continue to talk.

Finally, she decides to try it a bit, to let him do what he wants to do. He gets carried away and hurts her. Ouch! She breaks off the relationship, making it clear she will not be his submissive, and goes home. For five days they don’t see each other. Both are miserable. In his misery, he rethinks his whole way of relating. To him, there is something special about her. He doesn’t understand it but he can’t quite walk away. He decides to give up his BDSM habits, if that’s what it will take to win her back.

Just as the prince pursued Cinderella, he pursues her. He begins to enter her world, offering to escort her to an event he knew she planned to attend: the opening of her friend’s art show.

Reluctantly over time, he answers her questions about his past. She learns he was severely abused as a child; his mother was a crack whore with a violent pimp. He has scars on his chest he won’t let anyone touch. After his mother died, he was adopted by a wealthy family and saved from that destructive environment. As a teenager, however, he was seduced by one of his adoptive mother’s friends and taught to be her submissive. Their dominant-submissive relationship lasted years. He is a deeply wounded man.

And here is another aspect of a female fantasy: will Ana be the woman whose love heals his childhood wounds? Hearing all this, she is filled with compassion for him. As he trusts her with more of his story, they grow closer. He lets her touch him—physically and emotionally— in ways no one ever has. She comes to understand that his controlling tendencies operate as a protective defense. She loves him but she is not a woman to be controlled by a man. As she asserts her independence, they struggle.

And next another aspect of a female fantasy is revealed: Christian is a man willing to seek help. He has a psychiatrist and even gives Ana his permission to meet with him. She wants to know how wounded is Christian, can he be healed? Dr. Lynch reassures Ana, advising her to be patient and to give Christian the benefit of the doubt.

He protects her from danger, something women also fantasize about:  from one of his former submissives who has a psychotic break and comes after Ana with a gun and from Ana’s boss who tries to sexually assault her. Their relationship continues and deepens as they deal with these crises. Christian strives to protect her, providing her with security in the form of his trusted bodyguards. At times she rebels from being guarded, believing he is being over-controlling, which leads to more danger and more exciting reading.

To repeat: this story is a female fantasy. And what do many women (okay, what do I) fantasize about? A marriage proposal. Christian realizes he needs to propose to her to keep her in his life. Completely taken by surprise, Ana tells him she has to think about it. Eventually she says yes. They announce their engagement at his family birthday party. His family—parents, brother, sister—respond with great joy and embrace her as one of the family. His mother’s evil friend— whom no one knew abused him as a teenager— is at the party. She scoffs at their engagement, which exposes to his family the nature of their former relationship. As a result, she is banished.

The fantasy continues: they have a wedding and a three week honeymoon in Europe. He buys her a beautiful home with a beautiful view of the water and renovates it to her specifications for them to live in. She becomes strong enough in her own power to confront the interior designer, a sexual predator, who makes a play for Christian.

Throughout this story, they have frequent and mutually pleasurable lovemaking sessions. The author leaves little to the reader’s imagination and seems to want to demonstrate that women do enjoy erotic passion in a monogamous relationship. (Yes, we do.) Ana’s love becomes the salve that heals Christian’s wounds and transforms him into a loving family man. Ana’s sexuality blossoms under his erotic attentions. Her confidence and personal empowerment grow under the lamp of his love and care.

And so they live happily ever after. It’s the perfect fantasy. I submit that its popularity stems from this fantasy aspect. Women enjoy reading a story that shows their fantasies can come true, that love will last, will heal our wounds and provide a sanctuary where we can grow and be loved for who we really are. When I read this story, I look at my partner (now my fiancé) and remember that he truly is my dream come true. After disappointment and heartbreak, divorce and life as a single parent, I have found the shelter of his arms. And I want to pour my love into him as he pours his into me and watch amazed as we both blossom into more of who we really are. And I want to cherish the time we have left in this third chapter of life and enjoy our love in the way we both like best.

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It’s that time of year again!

 

 

 

 

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” goes the old song.

 

But is it? It can also be the most stressful time.

 

Your to-do list gets longer. Besides the usual work and chores of daily living, there are gifts to buy, cards to write, Christmas tree to buy and decorate, outside Christmas lights to hang if you’re to keep up with the neighbors, boxes of dusty decorations to pull from the shelves and find a place for, special baking and cooking, parties to attend or host. The list goes on and on.

 

Christmas asks the questions: “Where do I belong? Who is my family?” The season propels you down a dark chute of memories of every other Christmas you’ve ever had and of images of whom you spent it with who may be long gone.

You recall that moment as a child when you woke up, sat on the top step of the staircase with five steps to a landing with a window then five more steps down the opposite direction. You saw reflected in that window your dad downstairs assembling your bicycle and you knew finally with certainty what you had suspected–that Daddy is Santa Claus!

As an adult, you may recall, as you lift an old ornament from the box, that little boy who turned an old jar top into an ornament with paper, scissors, pipe cleaners and glue who is now grown and, sadly, living too far away to come home.

That sudden cold snap with its dusting of snow may remind you of your first Christmas with your now ex-wife and the delight of being snowed in together, long before it all went so terribly wrong.

Or you recall the special oyster stew your mother made on Christmas eve and miss her terribly even though she’s been gone ten years.

Or you recall after your parents’ divorce how you had to divide your time between them and feel again the loss of the parent who is missing.

Our personal connections are fluid and ever changing. Awareness of what you now lack in the belonging department gets amplified at the holiday season. Family members grow up, move away, divorce, get sick, die.

 

Right now, an elderly cousin of mine is in the hospital following a serious stroke. He can’t talk or swallow. His family members are engaging in “hospital watch,” praying he will make it and spending their days at his bedside. This is not the Christmas they expected but it is the Christmas they have.

 

Choirs sing of peace on earth and good will to all. Yet the world seems sadly lacking in peace and good will: drones in far away places still hit their targets (and innocent bystanders), congress still engages in partisan bickering without doing much of anything constructive, and millions are still unemployed.

 

Just like my mood as I write this, it gets darker and darker for longer and longer as winter approaches. And the anticipation of visiting family is not always joyful.

 

If your elderly mother won’t stop harping at you for leaving church 40 years ago, you probably don’t want to go see her anyway. “Mother, I am a Buddhist now, get over it!”

 

If your parents have the same argument every year about when to get the Christmas tree– your dad wants to get it Christmas eve as tradition dictates, your mother begs him to get it earlier so you won’t be late for the Christmas eve service again! And they escalate til they’re yelling with no resolution in sight. So you not only get to church late but everyone is angry and upset when you get there. If this is your family, you might long for a gripping mystery novel and a closet to hide in.

 

Or perhaps Uncle Henry will predictably get soused and corner you after dinner, breathing bourbon breath on you, and demand to know why you voted for that Muslim from Kenya who should be impeached. And you’ve given up trying to explain your views so you declare an urgent need to use the bathroom where you lock the door behind you until he passes out.

 

Add your own scenario: there are many.

 

What is a poor soul to do?

 

Sit down right now wherever you are and take a slow deep breath. Then another and another. Feel your heartbeat gradually slow down as you do this. Close your eyes and remember—it may be dark outside and the dark memories of past holidays may be seeping steadily inside you, but the days are actually getting longer. Once we pass the Solstice around December 21, daylight slowly increases. It’s a paradox—the coldest days lie ahead but the light is slowly returning.

 

Turn your attention to what gives you light and joy and love. You get to choose.

 

Interesting fact: our brains are wired to notice bad things instantly (important because sometimes bad things can kill you). But it takes our brains 12 seconds to notice the good things. So you must be a good bit more intentional if you are to let the good things register. (Read more such fascinating tidbits in Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, Ph. D. and Richard Mendius, M.D.)

 

What gives you light?

 

What gives you joy?

 

Who do you love?

 

Take 12 seconds to notice.

 

Then sing another song: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

 

12.16.2013

 

 

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Triangles Can Be Pitfalls

 

 

 

Recently on a ladies night out with two women friends, I saw the movie Enough Said. I had wanted to see it earlier but my sweetheart dismissed it as a chick flick. (In case you’re wondering, a chick flick is about relationships. A guy flick has explosions and car chases.) So I decided to see it with some chicks! I loved it. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It raised some interesting questions.

 

Spoiler alert: I’m about to give the entire plot so stop reading if you haven’t seen it yet but intend to and return here after you see it.

 

Enough Said is about Eva, a divorced massage therapist about to send her only child to college. She meets Albert at a party. He is also divorced and also about to send his only child to college. They enjoy talking at the party and soon start dating. They really like each other.

 

At the same party, she meets Marianne who becomes her massage client. They talk about their lives, their ex-husbands, and get to be friends. Marianne bad mouths her ex a lot. Eventually, Eva realizes that Marianne’s ex and Albert are one and the same person. She freezes and feels torn and doesn’t know what to do. She keeps dating Albert and giving massages to Marianne as she tries to wrap her mind around the situation. But Marianne’s criticisms of Albert sow seeds of doubt in Eva about their budding relationship.

 

Eventually Marianne and Albert’s daughter, Tess, bring all three together when Eva is at Marianne’s house to give a massage and Albert comes to pick up Tess. Talk about a tense moment! Albert leaves Eva and won’t return her phone calls. Finally Eva shows up on his doorstep and they talk. Eva admits she’d felt torn and not sure what to do. She confesses she was protecting herself as they’d both been divorced and “you know how things can get messed up.” Albert declares she broke his heart and he was too old for that stuff. So they part ways.

 

But they can’t forget each other. Later it turns out they each drive by the other’s house from time to time. One day Eva stops. Albert sees her in her car and comes outside. They end up sitting on his front step and laughing together—there’s obviously a nice connection between them. The movie ends there with the hope—at least for me–that they may try again.

 

Years ago I read an article in Ms. Magazine suggesting it would be helpful if a woman could talk to her sweetheart’s ex-wife. Sort of find out how he is and thereby avoid all those problems if you knew about them ahead of time. Avoid marrying a jerk or something like that. This movie sure blows a hole in that idea. Albert eventually does many of the things with Eva that Marianne complained about. The difference is all in the attitude—those same behaviors can be irritating or endearing.

 

Which brings me to the basic question we all face—are you going to be a loving person or a judgmental person? Even with an ex-spouse whom you once loved and who caused you enough pain to end the marriage, can you forgive and move on? Not hold bitterness and animosity but be able to relate cooperatively as co-parents? Put the needs of your children first?

 

In the movie Eva and her ex-husband Peter go together with their daughter to the airport to send her off to college, tearfully giving those last hugs, then walk off together arm in arm. As Eva wipes her tears away, Peter says: “We made a good person.” That tender moment brought tears to my eyes.

 

Marianne and Albert are still fighting over who gets to take their daughter to college. Marianne refuses to talk to him and seems to demonize him.

 

I found this movie completely believable. It could so easily happen.

 

I have never met my sweetheart’s ex-wife. She lives across the country. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had I met her, gotten to be friends with her, and heard her complain about him? I know women can run the racquet that “all men are bastards.” During the early years of the women’s movement, it was a popular past-time. It was surely a part of consciousness raising groups. I’ve run that racquet myself Thirty-five years ago, a year in group therapy with both male and female participants helped me to see men with more compassion. Then I gave birth to a boy child I adored. That really cured me. We are all just human beings doing the best we can.

 

My sweetheart does things that frustrate me—some things he can change and some he can’t. But I have decided to love him and put up with those things because in the big picture, he’s a sweet, kind and generous man who takes good care of me and I know puts up with a lot from me.

 

As an Imago Relationship Therapist, I have learned that those same traits you find so attractive in your beloved during the romantic stage can make you gag during the power struggle stage. The man of your dreams can sometimes seem like the man of your nightmares. Once you come down from the high of romantic love, you discover your differences, you have disagreements, you get frustrated more than you ever thought you would. You need to become skillful in handling those frustrations. You need to remember, as Harville Hendrix says, that conflict means something new is trying to be born. One of the hardest things we ever do as human beings is recognize our partner’s reality as different and equally valid. (You mean, you don’t like blueberries? OK, more for me.) And if you don’t understand that all this is inevitable, you can pile up divorces faster than you can yell: “You drive me nuts! I wish I’d never met you!”

 

As Albert puts it when he and Eva finally talk, Marianne poisoned Eva against him. And Eva let her. “How about protecting our relationship?” he asks her.

 

Like the popular saying “Be the change you want to see in the world,” you need to be the person you’d like to see in your relationship. Once you get really close to someone else, all those left-over needs and wounds from the past come to the surface. You can fight over them or you can create a safe space between you to heal them. Learn to become deeply acquainted with your own wounds from the past and those of your partner. Learn to ask your mate for the kind of love you really need. Learn, not the golden rule, but the platinum rule. Instead of do unto others as you would have them do unto you, do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Learn to love him the way he needs to be loved. So you can learn to become a more loving person. Which is what I think it’s all about anyway

 

 

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