Monthly Archives: June 2010

metta

I have hesitated to post about this because I am by no means an expert, and so I apologize in advance for my stumbling-around on this topic.  I’m going to forge ahead, though, because it’s so very important.  Please, please, please feel free to correct me in comments if (when) I get something wrong.  I would love to understand this better, so if you have some insights please don’t hesitate to share them.

I have posted a lot about my depression (aren’t you sick of my whining already?) and my therapist (are you ready to stop hearing about him?), but I haven’t mentioned metta.

Metta is a Buddhist concept that’s generally translated into English as lovingkindness.  It goes beyond the conventional knee-jerk definition of love as something emotional and turns it into a conscious decision to extend empathy and caring first to oneself and then into the world.

Metta practice involves meditation and, like anything worth doing, takes a long time.  During metta meditation one focuses on four statements, which have been translated into English in various ways.  My preferred translation (I don’t have any expertise in Pali so this is just the one that feels right to me):

May you be free from danger.

May you be peaceful.

May you be healed.

May lovingkindness manifest throughout your life.

The four statements are directed in several ways:  First, to yourself.  Next, to a benefactor (someone who has been kind to you).  Third, to a neutral person (someone you don’t know very well and towards whom you don’t have a strong emotional attachment).  Fourth, to a difficult person (someone towards whom you feel anger, fear, or other strong negative emotion).  Then the direction expands to encompass large categories of people: to all women, to all men, to all children, and finally you direct your metta statements to all beings in the world.

I started working at this several months ago, and it was weeks before I could say “May I be peaceful, may I be healed” without crying.  Directing the meditation towards myself was surprisingly difficult, but over time it started to feel right and good.  It was easy to start directing it towards others; the hard part was saying kind things to myself.  I kept trying, though, and I can honestly say that the metta meditation was a huge part of what pulled me out of the worst of the depression.  I can’t discount my therapy sessions, and of course having a diagnosis has been a huge factor, but it has been the metta meditation that has sustained me.

So, to all of you:

May you be free from danger.

May you be peaceful.

May you be healed.

May lovingkindness manifest throughout your life.

because i don’t actually totally suck

I’m going to share some positive things that have been happening, in no particular order.  I think it’s pretty important for me to remember that even though it’s easier to dwell on negatives, I don’t actually have to.  So with that in mind, here goes:

Things are getting a little better at work.  I don’t know if something has changed in my boss’s personal life that is making her feel differently, or if my (probably imperceptible) efforts at being more assertive are having a positive effect, but either way it seems like I am getting a little more respect than in recent weeks.  Hopefully this will last!

I played two concerts this week, both of which were favorably reviewed in our city’s major newspaper.  This is a fairly big step for me and my ensemble, since we are usually just reviewed in alternative press and niche websites.  Hooray for us!  More importantly, though, we played really well in both concerts.  We were pleased, the composers were pleased, and our small but enthusiastic audiences were pleased.  One of the works I did this week was a really new experience for me:  it was a solo work involving live processing and improvisation.  I played some music into a microphone, and the composer was sitting at a mixing board manipulating my sound, then playing it back through speakers so that on my next entrance I was accompanied by a digitally manipulated version of what I’d just played.  Then, once there were a few layers of that going on, I had to react to randomized sets of pitches appearing on a monitor and improvise over them on the fly.  It was the first time I’d done anything like it, and it went really well.  I am so pleased with myself.

I presented on writing effectively for my instrument at a workshop for young composers this week.  It went really well and I think (I hope) they learned a lot.  I am not a bad teacher once I get going!  There is life beyond being a secretary, and maybe all those years in grad school weren’t wasted after all.

in which this blog takes on a confessional tone

It’s a very short distance from snappy anecdote to banality.  It’s even quicker to get from banality to venting.  And from venting to whining is the slightest shift to one side.  From whining to DRA-MA?  That’s just splitting hairs.

Which one is this blog?  I’m hoping it’s more than just whining.  I’m trying to figure out what, exactly, I want it to be.  Am I writing it for me, or for a reader?  And how does it compare to the other mostly one-sided conversations I have regularly (i.e. my therapy sessions)?  What do I owe my readers?  Interesting writing?  Snappy anecdotes?  Regular TTC updates?  (Still fucking.  No baby yet.)

These are questions I probably should have asked myself before signing up for ICLW.  Oh well, you know what they say about hindsight; and anyway it’s hard to see behind me when I’m gazing so raptly at my navel.

So as you all know (because I can’t fucking stop talking about it) I am depressed.  It has taken me an amazingly long time to trace that depression to two things that happened last December:  my experience with my first RE, and my annual visit to my brother.  I’ve examined those RE visits in excruciating detail on this blog, but I think I have had a big blind spot about the visit to my brother.  I am getting upset just thinking about it.  Why did it take me so long to get here?

So here goes.  My brother.

My brother is perfect.  He is a year younger than I am but he has always behaved as though he were older.  He is the success; I am the fuck-up.  When we were kids he saved his allowance; I spent mine on French fries.  He played varsity sports in high school and was valedictorian; I broke curfew and hung out with potheads.  He is an engineer with a retirement fund and a house in the suburbs; I am a glorified  secretary and am still paying off grad school.  He has two beautiful children.

He has two beautiful children.

I hate myself so much for even thinking of being jealous of him.  I know that life is not a zero-sum game and that one person’s achievements don’t preclude anyone else from doing just as well or better.  But I look at my life and I Just. Don’t. Measure. Up.  I feel like there is some kind of life training that everyone else got and I missed.  I was too busy practicing or rehearsing or reading poetry or watching Buffy and now it’s too late.  I can’t seem to do things that other people can do.  Like save money.  Or buy a house.  Or have children.

And there is my brother.  He does things, grown-up things.  He uses the word “grout” in ordinary conversation and can change his own oil.  I, on the other hand, know how to do useful things like set-theory musical analysis. And I am terribly afraid that this is all I am ever going to be.  The sad crazy fat useless aunt who blows in once a year and can’t even manage to bring the right clothes.  I know I am a disappointment to my family.  They are kind of bewildered by everything I do, and everything I do seems to be wrong.

And there is my brother’s older daughter.  At three years old he just doesn’t know what to do with her.  She is highly verbal, loves books, is uncoordinated and not very interested in sports, she loves to sing and dance and is a major drama queen.

She is just like me.

I am afraid for her.  On the one hand I am afraid that her father won’t ever be able to relate to her.  He is just confounded by her; part of it is just that she’s three and has all of the usual three-year-old stuff going on (tantrums etc.), but part of it is her great big emotional personality.  Just like mine, and nothing at all like his.  I hope with all my heart that she will grow up feeling accepted for who she is, even though she’s not like her mother and father.  But on the other hand I am afraid that she will stay just like me.  Interested in all the wrong things, good at all the useless things, and waking up one day at 31, barren, sobbing, wondering how she’s going to make the rent.

I want so much more for her.

I want so much more for me.

I want and want and want.

more than you ever wanted to know about my depression

(and I won’t be offended if you skip this post or back away slowly partway through)

I started seeing this particular therapist because he was assigned to me.  I am using the counseling center at the university where I do my admin job, because they have a really good rate for staff.  I think they mostly see students, though.  My therapist is a Ph.D. student.

It took me a long time to get started.  I was extremely depressed over this past winter (strongly related to my experience with Chucklehead RE as well as my annual inadequacy-laden holiday visit to Perfect Brother), to the point I was barely able to function.  As I put it in a previous post, my depression became evident to those around me.  My friend and colleague suggested I start seeing a therapist; in my more cynical moments I think she wanted me to be a better participant in our rehearsals, but most of the time I think she was just worried about me as a friend and for that I am grateful.

I went down to the university counseling center and was seen for an intake session.  I got into the room and I sobbed for an hour straight.  Afterwards it took me 3 full days to stop crying.  It was so incredibly difficult to first of all start to express myself in front of a stranger, and then to have to shove it all back inside to go back to work.  Then they put me on a waiting list.  It was almost a month before they had an opening for me, and when they did it was with my current therapist, not the person I had the intake session with.  So I had to start all over again.

The paperwork I filled out stated that most clients find their problems adequately resolved after 6 or 8 sessions, which is why I am starting to think I have overstayed my welcome.  Also I am just so frustrated with myself for not being able to get past the same old crap.  Certainly I’m not as acutely depressed as I was six months ago.  I am able to get through the days without crying, I am not completely trapped inside a mental fog, I am functioning.

But I still don’t feel better.  I still can’t get away from the same patterns I have always been in.  And now that the crisis I was in seems to have lifted (i.e. I’m not a sobbing disaster all the time), I am starting to think there is something deeply wrong with me that’s not allowing me to get past this depression.  I think my therapist is also getting very impatient with me, and I definitely sort of freaked him out a couple of weeks ago.

I told him in the session that I was grateful for the opportunity to talk with him and to focus on myself for one solid hour each week, and I really sincerely meant it.  He has helped me a lot, drawing connections between thought patterns that I would never have found, giving me exercises that have been really illuminating and centering.  I am appreciative and grateful for all of that.  But when I told him that he got very weirded out, and now I don’t think he’s as comfortable in our sessions.  So I think I definitely stepped over some kind of boundary but I can’t figure out what I did wrong.

So in answer (at long last) to bunny’s question, the reason I’ve stayed is that he really has been extremely helpful, and I don’t know if I would have made it as far as I have without him.  Now I just feel like this is one more thing to add to my list of screw-ups.  Would it be any different with another therapist?  Should I just stop going and try to be less crazy?  I don’t know.

I would love some advice if anyone has any, but like I said I won’t be offended at all if no one is reading at this point.

i write letters

Dear Therapist,

I think I am making you really uncomfortable.  I know that I am kind of a mess and it is clear that something I said a few weeks ago is really bothering you.

I didn’t mean to screw this up.  I know it must be really difficult and frustrating for you to have what is essentially the same conversation with me week after week.  It must be hard to understand how I could possibly be so thick, how I could fail to resolve such obvious issues. I am so sorry to have made a mess of this and I am starting to think that I’ve overstayed my welcome.

Should I come next week?  Or should I just let this fade away?  I know you have a waiting list and probably there is someone you could really help who isn’t getting a chance because of me.

I don’t know what to do.  I am so very grateful for the opportunity you have given me to examine myself, my actions and motivations.  On the one hand I know that there is nothing really wrong with me or with my life and that I should just quit whining and enjoy the ride; on the other hand I feel that I must be very deeply fucked up.  Either way I’m not sure what I expect you to do for me.

I am just so sorry to have fucked this up.

Sincerely,

gingerandlime

ICLW

This is the first time I’ve participated in ICLW.  *waves hello*

As you can see from my last post, I’m getting ready for a myomectomy on July 13.  I have a submucous fibroid that my RE is convinced is the cause of my infertility.  Here’s hoping…but in the meantime I am a little scared.  (If anyone has any stories about how easy and painless their myomectomy recovery was, and how they got pregnant on the very first try afterwards, I would love to hear them.  Even if they’re not true.)

I’m 31 and a nonprofit worker and musician in the Midwest.  I play electroacoustic chamber music (there’s a niche for you!) and enjoy complaining about my boss.

I also like to post recipes but am terrible with a camera, so I haven’t made the leap into delectable food porn.

no pants?

So I just found out that I might not be able to wear pants after my myomectomy.  While I am generally in favor of pantslessness whenever possible (as my husband says when getting into his pajamas, “No pants are as comfortable as no pants!”), I am a little concerned about the prospect of going back to work pantsless 4 weeks after the surgery.

Wardrobe suggestions?  What’s appropriate for the office?  I could lay in a supply of muumuus, I suppose.  I have some skirts, but they might as well be pants because they too have waistbands, which I would imagine is the problem.

I do have exactly three dresses, one of which is entirely inappropriate for work.

I will have to think on this.  There may be a trip to the thrift store in my future.  Unfortunately thrift shopping with a specific goal is always harder than just getting what looks interesting.