Monday, July 25, 2011

The George Carlin Letters:Fun Summer Read

I just finished a fun summer read called "The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship of Sally Wade".It was written by George Carlin's partner of ten years,comedienne Sally Wade,with commentary by their dog,Spot,as well.The book is a delightful look into their love relationship or bubble as they called it.The book is a sweet personal view of both Carlin and Wade,with copious notes and cards they sent each other in their years together.

You've got to love somebody witty enough to write:"What if you met your Maker and it was Mattel?" There are lots of cute lines they had for each other,including when Sally was hormonal and George told her it was "like living with a chemistry set".Each couple has a chance to build their own,private,tender,and funny world between them.Carlin and Wade give the reader a window into the wit and humor these two enjoyed in day-to-day life.It sounds like they had so much fun together. Who could imagine they collected found change from public places? They hated to be apart.They had rituals for jumping on beds in hotel rooms like frogs.Both teased they were actually each from Jupiter.

I loved reading about how they encouraged each other.Sally can have a little stage fright,and George would go with her to little clubs and help her get in to try out her new material.George clearly felt she was the love of his life,and when he put that pure love to pen and paper,the resulting cards,notes,and drawings are touching,funny,honest and very dear.Wade's book also reports their disagreements,and how they got through them.Carlin asked Wade to marry several times, but she said no.They had their own little ceremony on Jupiter Island,but these two were soulmates,with or without the paperwork.

Since it is George Carlin,there is some racy stuff and bad words,but their love story outshines it all.When Carlin left to go to his final hospital visit,he left a note on Wade's computer keyboard for her to find later,reading:The permanent courthip of Sally Wade.Isn't permanent coutship a lovely idea? It implies we are always trying to please our partner and make them feel special.No taking each other for granted.I bet George Carlin is up in heaven smiling about this book.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Friends Are Good Medicine

A week or so back,I read a cute and thought-provoking essay in the Wall Street Journal about friends,and how having them helps your marriage.It was one reporter's observations about how having girlfriends to turn to helped her be a better partner,and have more realistic expectations about her relationship with her husband.

The reporter's musings got me thinking about the role that friends play in our lives. They validate and normalize our life experiences. They comfort us when we go through loss or difficulty.They share our personal history.They know our cast of characters.If they are a good friend,they are not afraid to call us on things.They encourage us to be brave and do the right things.They commiserate with us about things that annoy us.They may see our patterns.They know our strengths,and our weaknesses.The right friends are people we admire and respect who lift us up and let us lift them up,too.They hurt with us when we go through difficulty,and share our joy when life is good.

Close and meaningful friendships mean even more over the lifespan.In adult development,friends mean the most in our teen years and again from midlife on.Some of us get caught up thinking your partner can be everything you need in our twenties and thirties,or as we are in the busy new couple and then parenting years. As children are preparing to launch,reestablishing friendships is a crucial help in making the successful transition to being an emptynester.

Choosing friends who you respect is important.You are likely to be influenced by your close friends.Do they have integrity? Are they honest? Do they take pride in their life's work? Do they strive to be a good parent,partner,and person? Do they deal with life's challenges and losses,or do they hide behind addictions?Are they stuck whining and complaining,or are they living their life fully?

Because of personality style differences,such as extroversion and introversion,different people need different amounts of friends.Introverts prefer people one-on-one,or in a small group setting.True extoverts like the more the merrier.This is actually a continuum from one extreme to the other,with people falling all along the line about what is normal for them.Your partner may need more or less time with friends,and that is perfectly okay.Healthy couples can individuate enough to allow for these differences and not feel threatened by it.

When are friendships NOT healthy and good for you? This is true if your friend aids and assists your weaknesses(think tendency to overspend,drink too much,cheat,lie,etc.).Any friendships which are a secret to your partner are wrong and deceptive,and dishonor both you and your loved one.Friendships which are not balanced are not good,as when one friend does all the initiating of contact,or pays every time,or one person constantly dumps on the other.

The healthiest friendships are fun,have common goals and interests,and feel reciprocal and count-on-able.Some friends can go long time periods without contact and remain close despite big gaps in continuity.Some friendships go the distance in your life,while others seem to have a frehness date and a natural ending once your life situation changes.

There are lots of documented physical and mental health benefits to cultivating strong and meaningful friendships.You are blessed if you have one or more of thge really good ones.As we mature emotionally that no one person can meet your EVERY need,like one stop shopping.Having close and supportive friends promotes your ability to be a better partner and person,and keeps your expectaions realistic that your fantasy partner who intuits your every need and wish,without you communicating,is silly.Real love and authentic connection with your partner and your friends is so much more satisfying.Friends really can be good medicine.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Multi-Faceted Life

It's a mistake to have your life be too small.One tool that I often use with my coaching and counseling clients is what Susan Jeffers calls a "whole life grid". On it there are 12 to16 different squares,each of which can represent an area of your ideal life.

The squares in your life grid could include labels such as:

















These are sample ideas to get you thinking. Then,on one sheet of paper,you make the appropriate number of boxes and label them with these titles. In each box,you write,in pencil,a goal that you would like to achieve,and one small step you can plan to take towards that goal.For example,in your friend category,you may want to expand your friendship base. The small step could be inviting someone you know, or a friend you have lost touch with,to do an activity with you.Then keep updating the steps as you complete one,and set the next.

In this way,your life begins to be more multi-faceted,and continually evolving.It is not healthy or smart to have all your eggs in one basket,or all your energy in one life box,like your job,or a relationship. The happiest and most satisfied peoplke have a broader base of support and a wide range of options and interests.Have some fun making your own whole life grid,and beginning your next steps to a more interesting life.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Spirituality and Mental Health

I just returned from a family trip to London,and was,again,moved by Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral,as I sat inside and the afternoon light streamed in through the ancient stained glass windows.I had visited these same churches years ago when I first got out of college, but it was very meaningful to return years later and share the experience with my husband and our daughters.

Then,this morning,I had the honor of attending an intimate religious ceremony for a young woman I know,and see her affirm her faith,with generations of her family standing nearby for support.It was very moving to hear first hand about the journey of faith in a young person's life as they transition to adulthood,and choose to practice their faith.

What does faith and spirituality have to do with mental health? Actually,quite a bit. Numerous studies have seen higher levels of happiness,contentment,and meaning in people who have developed their spiritual side. Having a belief in a divine spirit,something bigger than yourself,can be comforting and healing. Life is full of random hits,losses,and disappointments.Having a source of meaning which trancends the physical and the here-and-now can be a great strength and solace.It can be a resource as I help people with anxiety or depression.

Developing our spirituality can also help provide us with ethics,an honor code,and a sense of right and wrong.Often people develop their spirituality after becoming parents, and being challenged to teach their children about their beliefs.This is a normal part of family lifestage development.Many children are naturally curious about life,death,God,and other spiritual matters.Sometimes children lead their parents to a spiritual path.It is also in the second half of life that our normal life tasks include more reflection,contemplation,and awareness of spirital matters.

Developing your spirituality offers a host of benefits for your mental health and well-being. It increases the chances of your life having a meaning,your relationships being sacred,your conscience working,and you being a happier and hardier soul.Discovering more about your spiritual life, and what feeds it, is an important way to develop yourself on a whole different level.
It can guide you towards the light and away from,as Carl Jung called it,your "shadow self".We all have one.Spirituality and faith can help us with forgiveness,of our flaws,and other peoples'.

I remember hearing the Dahli Lama speak years ago at UCLA,and how frustrated he got when someone asked him about a quicker way to enlightenment and real happiness. His short answer? There is no shortcut to creating it;our soul work is out there an a daily basis for us to develop ourselves,or not.