RUNNING BLIND

guilhermina guide 3

Super-star athletes are polishing their personas with the advent of the Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.  One of them, Jamaican mega-medal winner Usain Bolt, has the gracefulness of a natural athlete. With his perpetual smile and generally good nature, Bolt is no pushover.

One doesn’t get the impression that Usain Bolt would promote something disagreeable.

Despite his gifts, or maybe because of them, Bolt also demonstrates a remarkably generous spirit, e.g., his 2012 embrace of double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, who competed against Bolt.

At a recent promo event, Bolt paired with Brazilian Paralympic multi-medalist Terezinha Guilhermina as her guide runner. Vision-impaired para-athletes compete under strict guidelines that may include use of sighted guide runners. Guilhermina trains and competes with guide Guilherme Soares de Santana; tethered at the wrist, she runs blindfolded as they match each other in speed and timing.

This high-speed dance is like a successful relationship: Trust is essential.  Good communication is quick but subtle, successful only with lots of practice.  Even when a compatible partner is found — no easy task in itself — the tasks are twice as difficult, twice as demanding.

If you’ve ever run a playground race with one leg joined to another person’s you begin to understand how tough it is to run as one.

Even so, Bolt expressed concern that Guilhermina would fall over or be unable to run fast enough. Both fears were unfounded.

Like running in synch, when an able-bodied athlete joins with a para-athlete, one shadows the other. Both understand the effort, sacrifice, and ability that has brought them to the medal podium.  As in a good marriage, there is mutual admiration and respect; knowledge that the differences are not diminishments.

Now for the preachy part:  There are two separate and unequal worlds when it comes to sport.  Usain Bolt, personable as he is, sells because of his able-bodied ability, not his smile.  Paralympic athletes sell to the larger audience only when paired with Olympic athletes; it doesn’t matter that their talent, drive, focus, and commitment to excellence are the same.

“Blade runner” Arthur Pistorius got more ink because of his fall from grace than from his rise to it.

Societal disequity is an old story and not just one about disability. Overcoming innate human suspicion and dislike of what is different requires conscious and concerted effort.  The nudge may come from decades’ worth of disabled vets with their can-do mentality, greater numbers, and the societal bequeathing of a high moral ground.

Personally, I’ll take it any way I can get it:  If the result to being paired with an able-bodied celebrity is lasting inclusion and a broader definition of human value, then drop the red flag and let the sports begin.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist whose private practice focuses on couples, especially those whose relationship is complicated by invisible or visible disability.  Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for nearly 40 years and understands that athletes go beyond themselves to compete.  With two world-class cat nappers, Petey and Lucy, Kathe and husband David live in Colorado where she doesn’t ski.

Read more about their Couples Communication Workshops at www.BeingHeardNow.com.  While you’re at it, check out our newest site, www.CouplesWhoTalk.com.

SOMETIMES YOU OUGHTA BE SCARED

clown hugBells should go off in your head if you’re walking in the woods and a clown in a bunker’s offering free hugs.  

Or when your guy grabs your shirt, slams you up against the wall, and says you don’t wanna make him angry.

And the whole theater’s screaming at that dumb young thing not to open up when the doorbell rings at midnight and nobody’s expected.

I’m not generally an alarmist although my husband David would disagree.  I do worry about fire starting in a trash barrel where he’s dumped grass clippings.  Or being afraid things are gonna blow up.  Or when I feel eyes on me when I’m working late by the open window in my first floor office and I can’t help myself I just have to look.

One summer my panties started disappearing off the clothesline, hang-up calls began right after my soon-to-be-ex left the house, and the guy across the street would make a racket so I’d look up to see him standing naked in his doorway.  When the phone rang at 2 one morning and the soon-to-be hustled me into the dark backyard I thought yeah, sure, I’m gonna get whacked — he had lots of, uh, connections; I didn’t for a second believe the police were evacuating the neighborhood.  But they were.  That spooky ass guy shot a neighbor who was coming home from shift work.

A bit after I rented out my condo, the woman whose doorway was a few feet away from mine was strangled at home then dumped in the woods. The daughter’s boyfriend went to prison for murder in a sordid story worthy of a bestseller.

Like people in an abusive marriage or those who return from war, I can talk about what’s happened to me as if it had happened to someone else.  Traumatic stress is often numbing and, whether the stress is long- or short-term, the need for self-protection can make us look (and be) detached and dispassionate.

Danger exists in trusting others even as protection is so desperately needed.  Laying down the guise, being vulnerable and exposed, is almost literally a deadly challenge that many won’t choose.

Traumatic stress is so often unexpected — who would set themselves up to be traumatized? — we cannot prepare or protect our psyches from it.  A system-wide shock indicates that everything in our world — most especially those to whom we are vulnerable like spouses, parents, children, friends as well as surroundings that once felt safe — is now suspect.  Add to that the invisibility of chronic, traumatic stress and the difficulty of  recognizing or relating to it adds to misunderstanding and further isolation and loneliness.

Traumatic stress can be vigilance run amok.

The experiencing, fearing, seeing, remembering of violence and harm can derail our thoughts and emotions, often forever.  Like someone who puts and keeps themselves in line for abuse, or those who think themselves immune to repeated horror, all of us need to realize that horror commands a price.  Similarly, we need to know that sometimes, not always, we can predict nasty experiences and seek to avoid them.  Problem is, the invisibility of stress disorders can mean that some people are less in control than it seems.  The creed of healthcare workers, protectors of public safety, combatants, and others who serve reinforces our expectations — and their own — about invulnerability.

Sometimes, vigilance is underrated.

Putting ourselves in charge, like not hanging out with somebody who slams you against a wall, is a proactive step to avoiding traumatic stress in the first place.  And when you can’t avoid getting bummed out, talking with a professional helper can expiate what may be stuck in your head.  That’s necessary if you want to be able to live your life without looking over your shoulder for clowns.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice who specializes working with couples, especially those for whom invisible disability — like PTSD — is part of their relationship’s mix. She and her husband David hold Couples Communication Workshops that help inoculate couples from the stress that a poor relationship can bring.  Register now for the lateswt workshop at www.BeingHeardNow.com

© 2015, Being Heard, LLC 

THE #1 REASON WE DON’T LIKE THE HOLIDAYS

stressed christmsExpectations.

Say what you want about weariness, family dysfunction, commercialism, overeating and overspending.  Or that the sun’s been AWOL for 7 days straight and what’s left of the snow looks like it fell from a volcano.  Any number of stress disorders, worries about money, and disliking your own relatives (including Mother) count for nothing when a houseful’s coming, it’s your turn to entertain, and hubby’s at hockey with the kids.

Not much I can add to the 487 articles on Google about holiday survival except for this:  Never try out a new recipe with 20 coming for dinner.

I spent (too) many years expecting myself to live up to what I assumed was expected.  I didn’t make it “granular”; Enjoyment wasn’t My Enjoyment.  I lived the saying that expectations are premeditated disappointments.

Having a merry or happy or blessed was always accompanied by the picture of what it meant to be merry, happy, blessed.

I once believed that tramping through the snow, in the dark, to sit on a lonely outcropping at the edge of the forest to read a holiday card was worthy of a tug at my heart.   The fact, unromantic but true, was almost certainly a frozen body part, wolves in the woods, and having to pee part way there with the probability of my butt being frozen to my heels.

I don’t think we like the holidays because we’re supposed to like the holidays; we expect to, everyone expects us to, and everyone expects everyone else to, as well.  How is underwear a gift?  Who could enjoy watching Uncle Jim throw up turkey dinner after drinking too much?  Why would anyone endure the personal fallout of driving 600 icy miles to be with people you’re supposed to love but don’t really like?

Ain’t the holidays fun?

But when we have choices that lead us away from depression, guilt, hurt, or disappointment, we don’t make those choices often enough.

That underwear is given as a gift isn’t the reason we don’t like the holidays; the reason we don’t is because underwear, even if it has holes in it, is to be expected from parents, not partners.  Big girl panties don’t send the romantic message that he’d marry you all over again.  Thinking about it, though, I wouldn’t object to “tightie-whities” and “sexy” being in the same sentence.

Dissatisfaction with most holidays may have to do with the let-down that descends after shopping, spending, wrapping, waiting, and expecting.  Is that all there is?

“Lower your expectations of earth,” said author Max Lucado. “This isn’t heaven, so don’t expect it to be.”

Translation:  There is no gift wrap in heaven.

 

 Kathe KD-Winter_thumb.jpgSkinner is a Colorado Marriage & Family Therapist who always falls for  The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Colorado Christmas even though she doesn’t ski and  is basically an East-coast girl.  She lives along the Front Range of the Rockies  with cozy husband David and their two kitties Petey and Lucy, who leave little  presents for them year ‘round. 

 

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CASTING A SPELL: EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Casting a spell is done by the lovers among us; no exorcism needed.   Anyone who’s had a broken heart knows words and potions don’t work anyway.  And, unless you’re a crazy cat lady, the likelihood of being under the spell of a lover’s words is far greater than being eID-100183804nchanted by a black cat.
Loving someone calls out parts of us untouched by anything else. Loving and being loved is the genesis of trust, fearlessness, safety, vulnerability.  Linking to another calls for courage, and hones our concept of “forever”.  Falling under love’s spell is the only time we’re wholly, nakedly, ourselves.
There’s no doubting there are parts of love’s enchantment most of us would choose to do without.  Being vulnerable, for instance.

It’s so scary that most partners would rather fight, go silent, resentfully acquiesce, or run away rather than connect.   We think that connecting with the one we love calls for us to “give ourselves over”, “lose” ourselves.  And that that person will, with malice aforethought, mistreat us.

Holding ourselves back from our partners, investing the bulk of our emotional energy in children, jobs, or pets may seem a safe way to cope.  It’s not.  Actions may seem to be reasonable when they’re really frantic, reactive, and irrational.  The result is disconnection.  It’s alone-ness, alright; one that’s soul deep.

Being by yourself and being in a relationship isn’t always unhealthy, though.  In fact, the bulk of who we are is lived individually, as it should be.  The relationship itself stays healthy when there is a communicated, mutual understanding of, and confidence in, the “us-ness” that bridges one to the other.

Successful relationships are overlapping, not pancaking.  A well-designed spell allows each partner to breathe.

Take John and Mary, for instance.  To him, being alone means time to decompress after work, diddling on the computer or watching the news.  For Mary it’s a long, hot, bubbly soak spent with a trashy novel, candles . . . and no kids.

Are we now too busy to spend time re-casting love’s spell?  Too dour to be delighted in loving and being loved?  So impersonal that we let our thumbs wirelessly communicate our needs?

Is casting a spell a lost art?

A passionate lover of the season of beauty and decay, Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in teaching couples how to be safe and vulnerable at the same time.  She lives in Colorado with her husband of 28 years, David, and their 2 hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy.  Black spirit cats Squeak and Winston Bean never felt safe on Halloween.
 
© 2014, Being Heard, LLC
Image courtesy of 9comeback at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 
 

HEALTHY LOVE AT THE U.S. OPEN

The U.S. Open, the last of the tennis year’s four majors, is powering its way to the finals, and I’m psyched.

Tennis is an intense human drama that showcases the psychology of winning — belief in self, winning through intimidation, body language, gamesmanship, positive self-talk, courage, and reaching deep past pain and fatigue to tap the will to win.

It’s not surprising as a couples therapist I would remark on the irony of tennis’s scoring where zero (“love”) literally means “nothing”.  The phraseology’s origin is unclear.  Some cite the similarity of a zero’s shape to an egg (the French word is l’oeuf) while it’s also been said that “love of the game” or playing for love is what’s being referenced.

Apply tennis’ meaning of love to relationships’ meaning.  How incongruous to say that love is nothing!  That a feeling that surpasses everything, that defies explanation, and that transcends other emotions in its saving grace is nothing. Unlike tennis, healthy couples love doesn’t count winners or losers, nor does it strategize another’s defeat.

Love doesn’t take sides.  The best duos are dynamic for years, honing skills through practice practice practice, all the while getting closer and closer. Relationship longevity is the result.

The problem for many couples is knowing what to do to have things be better between them.  After all, what they’ve done so far often makes things worse.

Both partners absolutely need to learn the basic skills that account for fruitful communication.  Without it, a relationship’s foundation is incomplete, shaky, bound to crumble under the weight of all that happens in a couple’s life together. Couples have many choices when it comes learning communication skills.  Along the Denver/Colorado Springs corridor one example is the Couple Communication Workshop offered by Being Heard, a program unique in having a husband and wife team as instructors.

In a beguiling contrast to singles competition, partners in doubles — two partners competing against each other — is very much like romantic love.  Togetherness has great purpose and meaning; there’s a full and expressed range of emotional intensity that includes joy, disappointment, and frustration; and having your partner’s back is the way it’s supposed to be.

Kathe Skinner specializes in couples work as a psychotherapist in private practice.  These days the only tennis ball in her life belongs to the dog next door. Married for 29 years to David, another fan of “love”, they live in Colorado Springs with two hooligans cats who couldn’t tell a Venus from a Serena.

Copyright, 2015

Being Heard, LLC