Accomplishments

I was still five or six years away from being able to call myself a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Continued from Finally Free

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  ~ Edward Hale

Now that Hubby wasn’t at the house when it was his time with the girls I had the house to myself. There is a certain confusing pleasure about having every other weekend to yourself. I didn’t usually like to be in the house when the girls weren’t – it was a big house, meant for family and walking by their empty bedrooms was almost disheartening. However, being a single parent is undeniably the most difficult job I’ve ever known and so, on those weekends, I recharged – rejuvenated my energy. I did homework and spent time with friends. I was usually fielding a few phone calls from the girls, predominately the youngest one who was more dependent on me but encouraged them to turn to dad – I wanted ex-Hubby to develop his own relationships with the girls and be the dad they needed on those weekends.

This goal worked in total conflict with my ‘control’ needs and my ‘fixer’ genes… it was a true learning process to ‘let go’ on the weekends he had the kids. I had so much to learn about letting go – even though I thought I had done a lot already. I practiced opening my hands and counted on my meditation routine to help me. I wrote … and wrote… I didn’t call the writing I did ‘journaling’ back then but that’s what it was… I was just writing the thoughts that came to my mind, emptying my head onto the paper. I think I had been trying too hard to journal something specific. I found that just writing from the mental prompt of ‘I’ve been thinking about…’ or ‘I worry about…’ was most effective in parlaying what was on my mind to the paper. I often burned or shredded the words I wrote as I was a little paranoid that someone would read them. I wasn’t yet ready to experience the vulnerability associated with letting others view my internal reflections.

It’s hard to be patient and allow change to take place when we are in a hurry to ‘be better’. Sometimes it feels like a cruel Universe joke to need patience when we perfectionists are generally ‘not’ patient people. It’s often coupled with the need to remember – bring into our constant awareness – our inability to change others. And then, there’s the frustration of recognizing that even if ‘we’ make changes, the entire situation may not… leaving us needing to either make concessions or decisions.

I successfully settled my grandparent’s estate but only after addressing a lawsuit that had been initiated by Abee and Emma. Receiving that announcement in the mail was mind boggling because it created a direct conflict of interest for me. Essentially, the language of my grandparents will was unclear and ambiguous regarding the distribution of assets – whether or not Mom’s share of the estate was to be distributed to her siblings or to her direct heirs. Initially, the attorney advising me stated her siblings but the lawsuit contested that decision and I had to hire another legal opinion. Essentially my sisters were suing for a share of Mom’s share – taking money out of the mouth of their less fortunate relatives. I will never understand that motivation but in the end, I benefited because the ‘third perspective’ ruled that it was to be distributed ‘per stripes’… Mom’s share would be split among her children. It wasn’t a ton of money but it felt weird to award myself part of the estate. Our aunts and uncle were rather salty about the ruling as it diluted their distribution and frankly, with one exception – they needed it more than we did.  I’m afraid to think what my grandparents would have said / felt over that whole ordeal.  To fight it further would have just wasted more money from the already reduced estate. We paid the funds out and called it a day but not without further splintering of our extended family.

In the fall I returned to school. I loved learning about human behavior and continued to be amazed at how much about myself I was learning. In many aspects, I used my own life as an observational laboratory for the information I was acquiring; a rich environment of detailed data. I also learned to research. One of my ‘classes’ was apprenticing with a professor who was conducting studies. I chose Dr. Brown, the professor who had taught me about emoting. Her area of expertise was how environmental and socioeconomic stressors affected children. My job was to search the bowels of EBSCOHost (the academic database of research papers) to find other studies to substantiate the work we were doing and/or to find measures that we could use in our work. As strange as it sounds, I loved this job! It was a little bit like looking for puzzle pieces and finding something useful or affirming was the reward. Additionally, I would see something interesting and read, read, read. I learned to love reading journal articles about the ways we think, act, learn, etc. Learning this particular skill – research – was particularly helpful when I got to Grad school.

It was also my goal this year to make decisions about Grad school. I had several professors urging me to go on… Another suggested I forgo the graduate degree and become a Life Coach. I knew by then that counseling was the direction I wanted to go and that I would more than likely just open a private practice. My state didn’t require counselors to have any – actually none – credentials as long as they didn’t put themselves out there as ‘licensed’ and so I didn’t ‘have to’ get an advanced degree but… who would go to a therapist that wasn’t educated?? I don’t believe that most people are aware of all the different routes there are to obtain counseling certification – I certainly did not. There are several designations that allow people to eventually qualify for state licensing. First of all, most states require at least a Master’s Degree either in Psychology, Counseling, Social Work, or Mental Health. Certainly, there are also doctoral programs in each of those areas as well as the newer Psy.D. – a Doctor of Psychology (as compared to a Ph.D. which is a Doctor of Philosophy), then there are licensing exams and post grad supervision. I was still five or six years away from being able to call myself a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Since I wasn’t entering academia, a Master’s would fit all the requirements. I didn’t want to take the Social Work avenue (LCSW) although many counselors have that designation. I wanted to focus on Counseling and clinical components within the Individual, Family, and Marital arena. The only program within driving distance for me consisted entirely of night classes. Being a single mother of three made that completely impractical. Even though Sara would be leaving for college in the fall, Erin and Em still depended on me and I didn’t believe that leaving them alone for three nights every week over a two-year period was truly an option. That left me investigating newer online Universities that specialized in Psychology degrees. I left no stone unturned in understanding accreditation and the rigid standards that my state expected their counselors to complete.

In the meantime, I finished my undergraduate degree – finally – at the age of forty-seven. I wasn’t the oldest person to graduate that spring but I felt like it. I managed to leave there with a 3.8 GPA, having received only two B’s. My family celebrated with me on a scorching hot May afternoon by throwing me a surprise party (that wasn’t really a surprise thanks to someone’s well intended big mouth) and I felt accomplished and happy roughly twenty-eight months after discovery day.

Back to School

I discovered that professors will generally curve UP for students who are attentive, committed, and exemplify hard work

Continued from Love’s Journey

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ~ Henry Ford

I believe that I survived because of meditation. It allowed me to ‘reset’ so that my emotions didn’t stay elevated. I eventually learned about stress and cortisol levels… that when we are experiencing extreme emotions (stress), our bodies create hormones designed to help us in that moment (fight or flight response) but our systems are not designed to support consistent levels of those organic chemicals. As such, it’s vital that we learn how to work with our bodies and reduce the amount of time that we allow stress to dominate our life.

I started school full-time in the fall of 2005 and while I was ‘the old lady’ in most of my classes, I loved every minute that I sat in class learning. Of course, I was in the front row and raised my hand twice as much as anyone else… maybe because I was asking all their questions too?? I started all over again with French and literally, every single person in that room had just graduated from high school, but me. It was there – in French class – that I learned the meaning of true humility. I embraced the experience and learned to laugh at myself as I tried to recall the vocabulary I had acquired twenty-seven years earlier. I formed a study group with a couple of gals in my Bio-Psych class where we talked a LOT about the behavior of rats and brain function… Dr. Gans was exceptionally  patient with me as I put three kids on a bus in the morning and then hi-tailed it thirty miles to campus.  If I didn’t time it ‘just right’, I would get behind school buses that stopped at every driveway for more than ten miles. The universe had my back most of the time but every so often, and twice on exam days (Murphy’s Law), I would be ten or so minutes late… entering right in the middle of her lecture kick off. It was pretty hard to ‘slip in’ when my seat was way up front.

The cool part of going back to school in mid-life or for any ‘non-traditional’ student is that the only reason we are there is … to learn. I found out that professors love us. They, of course, entered teaching to teach and we were there to absorb everything we could so it was a perfectly sound, symbiotic, thing we had going. I was serious and demonstrated it by preparing lists of questions, highlighting my textbooks, taking copious notes, and utilizing office hours before tests and after.

I became undeniably fascinated with human behavior. My appetite to understand why people do what they do was almost insatiable. Between the ‘self-help’ library that I was amassing and the academic perspectives I was acquiring, information was being absorbed faster than any other time in my life. All of a sudden, the prospect of browsing through Behavioral Journals became enticing rather than frightening as it has when I first sat through Statistics just a few months earlier. When I was compiling research for a paper on cognitive distortions or adolescent development cycles I would approach the customary sources and then get lost in a sea of collaboration and philosophies from psychology professionals all over the world. Thankfully, academic libraries are available online for registered students and it was fairly typical for a paper to take twice as long to research as it did to actually write for the simple excuse that I was easily distracted on topics ranging from the science of gratitude to deleterious effects of daily stressors and more.

Of course, I read hundreds of studies about dozens of topics but I easily got lost in the – then – relatively new ideas of Positive Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology. They were theoretical positions that moved beyond what we traditionally think of in terms of human behavior, the Freud, Skinner, and Pavlov postulations. Psychodynamic (Freud) and pure Behaviorists (Skinner & Pavlov) theories felt outdated, strict, and slightly contrite as compared to those who introduced the ideas of Transpersonal psychology; Carl Jung, William James, and Abraham Maslow. Indeed, I was so enthralled that I briefly considered bagging my life and trying to get into the University of San Francisco’s Consciousness Studies program. I was hooked.

“‎…the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” ~ C. G. Jung

I devoured as much as I could read about Humanistic approaches, especially those in the Transpersonal realm. It was amazing to me that the ideas and thoughts which I had been focusing on recently, the idea that Love was critical (in some way) to our emotional wellness, was being a ‘real’ thing and being studied all over the world. I’m not sure why I was surprised as I have a strong belief in global consciousness and frankly, it wasn’t exactly ‘new’ but here it was – hundreds of studies that validated the direction I was headed.

Wikipedia defines Transpersonal Psychology as a “sub-field of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology” and elaborates “It is also possible to define it as a ‘spiritual’ psychology”.  It fit my ideology perfectly and became instrumental in the design of my approach as a therapist. Additionally, the field of Positive Psychology was beginning to garner lots of attention. Coming out of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where Martin Seligman, known as the ‘father’ of this domain, was concentrating his research.  I was fortunate enough to have a professor that personally knew Dr. Seligman and was equally excited about some of the findings, especially in reference to ‘gratitude’. It felt as if I was approaching the epicenter of intention; the Universe was leading me perfectly into the place I was destined to be and introducing me to each element, each component that I would eventually need as I moved forward.

I discovered that professors will generally curve UP for students who are attentive, committed, and exemplify hard work. I tried to establish a thoughtful example. The girls and I would take turns sitting at the computer, typing our little hearts out as three of the four of us were knee-deep in homework most nights. Em was still in Elementary school and was an excellent student but the workload wasn’t yet all consuming. I’m sure that they would have been great students regardless of my personal scholastic efforts yet I’d like to think that I embodied study habits which, they carried on. With intense dedication, I managed to squeak out straight A’s.

Christmas arrived. It was going to be the first year as a partitioned family and Hubby was still living in the basement. I didn’t feel as though it was in the kids best interest to exile him, and I sure as H.E. double L. wasn’t going anywhere. By then, Frank was also living in the basement although he wasn’t home very much either. Christmas morning found us all – sitting in the den doing what we had always done. Hubby and I made it as normal as possible for the girls and managed to be beautifully civil to one another even though I knew he was going someplace else after all the gifts were opened. Perhaps that helped; I didn’t spend any time lamenting on how ‘normal’ it felt but rather used all the ‘tools’ that I had developed from my Positive Psychology studies. He did leave and I remember being only a little sad. The people remaining in the house were my favorite humans and I had everything I needed. I focused intently on gratitude and for the first time in a long time – I felt blessed.