YOUR SEXUAL FANTASY INCLUDE THE PERSON ON THE NEXT PILLOW?

Rachel Friedman, sometimes called the

Rachel Friedman, sometimes called the “Paralyzed Bride” became a quadriplegic after a freak accident at her bachelorette party. She recently did a sexy photo shoot to make the point that the disabled are still desirable and sexual.

We’re into fantasy when it comes to sex.  For most of us, we found head candy in a hidden magazine stash or a suggestive romance novel.  Within adults’ lifetimes, though, there’s been an explosion in readily available sexual images.

No wonder couples get into relationship trouble when the expectations built around sexual fantasy get confused with who’s really on the next pillow.

Despite the (sometimes problematic) changes in what’s okay to portray, have we changed enough that sexual images that include disabilities’ realities — like ostomy bags — are fantasy-worthy?

Or is it just gross, which was one person’s reaction to Rachel Friedman‘s photo shoot.

Lots of us believe that people with physical disability are asexual, maybe because the thought of them having sex is a turn off.  After all, sexual fantasy is about perfect bodies doing perfectly acceptable things perfectly. Reality’s a bummer.  It’s a drudge; it’s hard; it’s not glamorous; it’s too often too tired and too often grumpy.  It farts, too.

Reality’s what’s unpleasant to look at; graphic disability’s just part of it.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in couples work, especially with couples whose relationship is impacted by chronic illness/disability.  She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for almost 40 years and lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, David, and their hooligan cats.  Find out more about her at www.coupleswhotalk.com or at their Couple Communication Workshop site beingheardnow.com.  

© 2015 Being Heard, LLC

A SAD AND SOGGY SPRING

rain woman

Rain rain go away

come back again another day in another month

Too much of a good thing is too much.

A nursery rhyme sung over and over comes to mind.  Too much gray becomes black.  And too much rain dampens the most cheerful spirit among us.

Scientific studies about the impact of weather on mood are inconclusive because there are so many factors.  Results of a study using Dutch teens, for example, may not translate to American adults: so is one study right and the other wrong?  Not necessarily.  When apples and oranges are compared, in this case Dutch teens vs. American adults, broad assumptions can’t be made.

Such is the problem with making sweeping statements with little data.

Take the question of weather affecting mood.  The short answer is “not always and not for all people”.  Nevertheless, enough studies assert that the weather does indeed affect some peoples’ moods. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder — SAD for short — which is an apt name, considering.

What seems true for more people is that when weather is persistently unusual mood is affected.

Here in Eastern Colorado the wettest spring ever is making people already sensitive to depression, well, depressed.  It’s not just flowers who miss 8 hours of sunlight; people who weren’t SAD before rain, gloom, and chill were on the daily weather menu are sure as heck sad now.  And cranky, too.

This is Camp Watchogue weather; I didn’t like it when I was 8 and I don’t like it now.  But this is Colorado; give it another couple of weeks and we’ll all be complaining about how darned hot and dry it is.

I can’t wait.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice on Front Range of Colorado.  She specializes working with couples, especially those impacted by invisible or visible disability.  She and her husband David will soon be in Arizona in hopes that Colorado dries out in the meantime.  Their kitties Petey and Lucy have been unaffected: it’s just another good reason to find a cozy spot and go to sleep.  She and David teach Couples Communication Workshops throughout the year.  You can find them at http://www.beingheardnow.com or at www.coupleswhotalk.com.

copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

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.

WHEN A CAREGIVER DIES

bigstock_Old_Couple_Holding_Hands_2041049     First published on Disability.gov

For 70 years she put up with his (sometimes volcanic) rumblings.  He doted on her with diamonds, and was a poorer father for it.

The youngest of 5 much older siblings, she was babied into being passive and timid.  He was a blustering bad boy who loved control; a lifelong natural at most things mechanical.  He took seriously his duties as a man, a spouse, and head of the household.  He didn’t brook anything that deviated from his definitions of right and wrong, a bigot in many ways.   A mother and military wife who could fend for herself and children when she needed to, she preferred being cared for . . .  and he liked it that way.

Both were fortunate:  for much of their lifetimes, neither was chronically ill or disabled.  Unless you count legal blindness, which he didn’t (though most who drove with him did).  And even though she developed macular degeneration, a disease of the eye that usually leads to blindness, she could sometimes see the world better than he did.

Several years ago her macular degeneration began to impact both of them.  By then, her hearing had deteriorated, too, and her world shrank.  Although she rarely admitted fears (not to us, anyway) he expressed his the only way he knew how:  he fixed as much as he could.  He cut her food, gently guided her through the dimly-lit places they avoided more and more, lent her his arm, and searched out gizmos and gadgets he found in catalogues.  He took care of her.

Last year, George left Kate.

True to his role, George had organized everything, including who his wife’s legal caregiver was to be — my husband. Now, almost a year later, Kate no longer plans on joining George in death right away and doesn’t cry for hours each night.  Not that she tells us, anyway.  As her vision deteriorates Kate, not surprisingly, adapts. David and his sisters do what they can from a distance of a thousand miles, mostly via phone calls and the occasional visit.  Immediate support comes from close friends and a kind and caring nursing home staff.

Today, it takes a dozen people to do what George did.  Even so, he can never be replaced.

None of us could live well if we spent too much time dwelling on the eventuality of death.  But some of us — the visibly or invisibly disabled or chronically ill — need to spend more time thinking about the profound changes a caregiver’s death brings.  Like David’s parents, my husband and I are fused by years, experiences, commitment and love.  Though I’m the one diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, in truth MS is something we both carry.

As we age and tire, slow and re-prioritize, both of us have to remember that though we plan to go out holding hands as star-crossed lovers, the truth is more mundane . . . and likely.  Whoever is left to mourn, cared-for or caregiver, what needs to happen is the same:

1.  Plan now.  The outcomes might look different, but the grief will be the same.

2.  Get your house in order.   You don’t have to be a survivalist in order to be prepared with legal, medical, financial, and personal concerns.

3.  Create your own family.  Gather together people who care, no matter what the will says.

4.  Get outside each other.  Get perspective from someone trustworthy and caring who’s outside the mix — minister, counselor, or therapist.

5.  Express yourself and your needs clearly, often, and appropriately.  Consider what to say and who you say it to.  Sometimes being blunt can be hurtful; at other times necessary.  Some people are better prepared to bring a casserole or help with housekeeping than to see you cry.  Try out your voice to a journal, or pay a therapist or counselor . . . they can be skilled and trustworthy allies.

6.  Keep in touch with others.  It’s unfair (and shortsighted) to place the burden only in one place — like with your son.

7.  Have someone to talk to, starting now.  Clergy, therapist, physician, friend, partner, family can help you sort out what to say and how to say it.  Think of yourself as a nuclear reactor.  Keeping it to you guarantees one of two outcomes:  shutting down or exploding.

8.  Join a group of those experiencing what you are.  There’s no substitute for having someone “get it”.  Don’t believe me?  Try talking to someone who doesn’t.

DSC_4482-K&DKathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Specialist     specializing working with couples, especially those for whom invisible disability is part of the mix.  She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 35 years.  Kathe and her husband David hold Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs and are both Certified Instructors for Interpersonal Communication Systems.  Along with their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, they live along Colorado’s Front Range.  Find out more about Kathe and David at http://www.beingheardnow.com and read Kathe’s blogs, ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com and couplesbeingheardnow.com.

© 2014, BeingHeard LLC

IT TAKES TWO TO DO-SI-DO

cowboy boots red

Doin’ the do-si-do’s impossible to do by yourself. 

I spent lots of years hanging out with girlfriends or not hanging out at all, which was more likely to be true. Most times, none of us even had someone who filled in for love. I’m not ashamed to say there are times I would’ve settled – my need for affiliation was that great – at least for awhile.  Although I did draw the line at that Mafia guy.

Being un-paired suggested to me that who I was was unacceptable; someone whose standards, suggested Mom, were sometimes too high.  This time she was right.

The upshot was a 10-year marriage I never wanted and that didn’t work, anyway.

And when, post-divorce, I found someone to love, conundrums followed double-behavioral-messages and I was as heartbroken and needy as if I were one of those women who stand uncomfortably on the periphery of social situations.  How humiliating that, when I bought myself a dozen roses to make him jealous, he knew no one else had done that but me.  

If you haven’t been there, done that, and are newly-bummed by Valentine’s Day, here are some thoughts:

1.  Scoundrels are plentiful.  Scoundrels will always be scoundrels. Scoundrels become scoundrel-ier the more you like them.

2.  Singles gatherings are very sad.  While such encounters are billed as “fun”, they never are.  They’re too often a forum for people to tell their bad/sad story.  While good forums for social science researchers, mixers like this can suck the breath out you for weeks.

3.  Visit the zoo.  Animals who live in enclosures have other fish to fry so they’re not upset when your dump truck of emotions backs onto their turf.   Just don’t dump on their food.

4.  Develop a mental solidarity with women who become collectors of cats.  Every cat-loving woman I’ve ever met understands how this happens, and is comforted by knowing that homeless felines are plentiful if all else fails.  

5.  Diet only if you want to.  A hungry person is a grouchy person, not at all lovable.  By the same token, if you’re ashamed of evidence of those ice cream orgies, remember that a shamed person often lies.

6.  Going to a bar is noisy, phony, expensive, sometimes dangerous but often depressing, especially when your friend gets hit on and you don’t.  People sucking up the bar scene are generally alcoholic, shopping for a good cut of meat, or both.  

7.  At the first sign of abuse run.  Fast and far.  Never look back.  

8.  Everything you’ve ever heard about kissing frogs is true.  These days you really can get warts.

9.  While the world feels like Noah’s Arc. fact is that with the divorce rate at 50%, out there’s a pretty big pool of people rejected by someone else.  And they’re yours for the taking.

10.  A clean bill of health is as important as it was to have a passport in Nazi Germany.  The consequences are about the same, too.

Pairing up is about lots of things, many of which we have no control over, like the biological imperative to reproduce our species, and to protect what we create.   Humans are meant to affiliate; we’re social animals who rely on, and need, each other.  The herd is enormous – 7 billion and growing. 

The odds are in your favor.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach who’s been in private practice for the last 17 years.  She works especially with the invisibly disabled.  Kathe finds real-life adventures in Front Range Colorado, where she lives with husband David and their hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy.  Neither of them has square danced since they were in 6th grade.  Learn more about Kathe & David Skinner and the Couples Communication Workshops they teach at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com and be sure to keep visiting Kathe’s blog at ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com.  P.S.  Pass it along!

©2014, Being Heard, LLC

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NASA’S PHOTO: PROOF OF GOD’S EXISTENCE?

NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

What’s a hand doing in deep space?

And what’s it attached to?

Is God just a big hand?

Wait a minute.  Is that a hand at all?

The so-called “Hand of God” is the result of a combination of NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuStar, combined with Chandra X-ray Observatory’s imaging.   God (and Superman) only knows what that pulsaristic, X-ray, and magnetic energy stuff’s about.

That we humans jump quickly to proof of what we so desperately want proof of is telling.

When familiar objects are seen in otherwise vague ways, a phenomenon known as pareidolia is at work.  Examples include seeing the face of Jesus in an apple core or your neighbor’s poodle in a cloud.  When the need to believe is strong enough, we “see” what reinforces what we believe.  Those who are especially adept at recognizing and interpreting such “signs” are attributed with magical abilities that enable them to  understand the past, explain the present, and foresee the future.  They’re called shamans, therapists, or witches, and every culture has them.

Anyone who holds the hand of God is powerful indeed.

Our fervency at making a disconnected connection can be seen everywhere in our lives, not just in questions about transcendence. When we’re always looking for signs, signs are always found.  For some of us, magical thinking beats realism every time:  I’m always a bit miffed when my husband can “explain scientifically” what tingles to believe.  Like yeti or synchronicity.

A peek at the animal kingdom demonstrates how natural it is to go for  glitzy — brightly colored and smiling is more alluring than earth-toned and frowning.  If you still aren’t convinced, go to Vegas.  Shake its pockets and the likely fallout will be all manner of charms, amulets and carved stones.  If you’ve ever played anniversary or birth dates in the lotto, you’re exercising the same belief in magical power.

How powerful is it to “know”?

People have been hung or burned alive for failing to share explanations we want, figure they have, but would rather die than tell. Curiously, we never fault our dysfunctional thinking when plague continues after we’ve roasted all the cats.

Distressed couples or the chronically ill may get caught up in the myths of “other reasons”, blaming themselves or those around them for what is ultimately ours to carry, even when understanding is absent.  Better communication in marriage or the development of chronic illness are examples.

Nevertheless, many of us feel helpless when comprehension fails.  So far-reaching is our need to know that we look outside ourselves for a “magic cure”, “quick fix”, or to blame.  It’s as if we were cognitively incapable of apprehending knowledge by ourselves, alone.

Facing the Great Unknown is frightening.

We call for help that protects, soothes, and explains.

And that’s as good a reason as any to search out the Hand of God.  

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Specialist.   She’s especially keen on working with couples whose relationship includes invisible disability (e.g., cancer, lupus, hearing loss, depression).  Kathe and her husband, David, live in Colorado with their two cats, Petey and Lucy.  They know that holding the hand of god is as easy as adopting a pet.    
 
©BeingHeard LLC, 2014

IT BEGINS AGAIN. HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE FOR 2014

stressed man giftsI love presents; who doesn’t?  Wrapped or unwrapped, gifts can be delightful.  And while this holiday giving season is over, shopping for next year’s holiday has already begun.

My gift to you is a gift-giving guide of sorts.   Garnered from over a quarter-century of giving presents great and small here are some pointers:

  1. Buy now based on later. That little boy will be a year older by time the next holiday rolls around and what’s on-target now will be babyish.  Fads, sizes, skill levels, and interests often change over time, especially with the under-20 crowd.   For some things and some people, wait to buy.
  2. Revisit the closet.  Set aside space in a closet for cadeaux that never made it to the wrapping stage.  I’ve found that what I was going to present to a friend’s son back then is perfect for someone else’s boy now.  We often forget what’s in our stash; those great buys-that-are-too-good-pass-up.  I once covered my whole list with what I already had.
  3. Shop local.  Bypass the mall to find unique and interesting goodies you may not have to spend big to give.  Buying local supports regional artisans and makes your gift more meaningful.  Be sure to avoid those times of year, like tourist season, when prices are marked up.
  4. Keep track of who got and gave what:  Some things are perpetually on the gifting-circuit and great care must be taken to avoid re-gifting to the gifter.  I once gave a book to a special friend because the title described her so well; turns out she had given the book to me in the first place.
  5. Avoid giving just to give.  Stores are full of meaningless things we give to each other because we have to, are expected to, or are directed to.  When we resent having to give, the gift itself reflects our feelings, like the pack of bobby pins I got in a $10 gift exchange.  Give a gift card for gasoline or food, something everyone can use.
  6. Match your gift to the recipient.  You might not be jazzed about a 4-pack of the latest nail lacquers but a girly-girl might.  And just because you’d want a set of graduated drill bits someone else (probably) won’t.  Who do you have in mind when you give?  Are you giving a gift you want the other person to want, or a gift they truly want?  Do you even know?
  7. Go in together.  At times, a big gift that’s too pricey for just you to give would be perfect.  When groups like families, colleagues or friends honor very special occasions together, the result can be impactful.   Linking pocketbooks enables more choices and lets us give what we want to rather than what we can afford.
  8. Give exponentially.  Most of us, especially children, already have too much. stuff.  Parents, who limit the number of kids’ gifts, are raising children who aren’t overindulged or numbed with plentitude.  Giving to toy or clothing drives gets the overstock to children in need; when children themselves are involved in the giving, the original gift is given many times over.  Likewise, a gift given to a helping organization in someone’s name is thoughtful and caring.  Think of how many people such a donation can touch!
  9. Pass it on or throw it out.  Like other fun lovers, I’ve been known to have an out-of-season holiday party as a way of getting rid of the what was I thinking? stuff.   A battery-operated spatula or cartoon character that grows grass out of its nose is too goofy to keep to yourself.  Take a tip from professional organizers:  give it away or throw it out, but get it off your hands.

For several years, kitties Petey and Lucy have taken the place of store-bought presents under Kathe and David’s Christmas tree.  The absence of ribbon and wrap has given them both a clearer view of gifts, both given and received.  Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach with a private practice in Colorado Springs where she specializes in couples work.  Find out more about Kathe at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.