Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

It's That Time of the Year

I'm feeling especially grateful, thank God, that:

  • Pat and I are happy as a couple and essentially healthy
  • Our mothers are still alive and alert and funny and brilliant
  • Pat and I feel devoted to our siblings and apparently, vice versa
  • Our nephews and niece are growing up interestingly and express their love for us
  • I have a job
  • My job is stimulating and enables me to experiment with how adults learn
  • I am healthy enough to exercise regularly
  • My therapist is good and costs so little thanks to a generous benefit from my employer
  • This week is a vacation-week
  • I'm doing really well in grad school and still primarily enjoying it
  • Our planes were on time and there was not terrible weather for our flights so far
  • Phoebe and Toonces, the cats, have become our beloved daughters
  • I have brilliant, loving friends whose friendship I enjoy whenever I avail myself of it
  • My school-reading is done for the semester and I can read for pleasure solidly from now till January
  • I feel free to be myself.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Gaining It and Recognizing the Gain

"I'm going through something painful with my mother, too," said a colleague with Aspberger's the other day as I was on my way to visit my mom in the rehab facility. "She's got dementia and doesn't remember well," said my colleague about his mom and then, "My father, actually, has forgotten that she will be turning 85, and says she's 83. And I'm a person who cares a lot about numbers. She's not 83. She's nearly 85." As he spoke, he stared anxiously at my throat, which unnerved me. Finally, I touched it and found that my necklace was askew. I re-centered it and he stopped staring and seemed to relax a bit.

Thank God I do not have Aspberger's, and thank God my mother has no dementia.

Rehab Encounters

Yesterday, at lunch with my mother in the rehab dining room, I met a 100-year-old woman, who looked 80 at most, and then later, in my mom's room, a nurse from another country, whose daughter was given a total scholarship to Loomis Chafee, but for whom it's a dilemma, since culturally, it's anathema for the daughter to go to boarding school and be away from the family.

And I met my mother's former roommate, who called her a devil, since my mother is not Christian, and then also a greyhound, who is on the rehab floor to provide affection-therapy for the patients. I stole a few pets from the dog while waiting for the elevator. The greyhound was not as silky and as furry as our kitties, but she was still comforting.

My mom hasn't yet found anyone to sit with during her meals. The 100-year-old woman could become a friend. She'll have to see. Meanwhile, my mom told me that the prior day, she sat down across from a woman, who didn't acknowledge her, so my mother said plainly, "Are you anti-social or do you have Alzheimer's?" The woman did not register the question, and my mom said, "When I got up, she gave me a smile; you know, they're in and out [with Alzheimer's]."

I wish I could find the energy to make the trip more often to spend more time with my mother; I can hardly stand that she feels lonely, but I guess it's also because I can't stand the idea of being alone myself.

Till My Sister Gets There

My sister Deb will bring her kids to see my mom today, around 2 pm, so I called this morning to keep her company for a bit meanwhile.

"It looks like a beautiful day outside," my mom said.

"It is. It's warm. Pat and I raked leaves and it was fun this time, since she's taking her tree-identification class and was pointing out all of the different leaves while we raked."

"That's what I had with your father. I was never bored."

I'm not surprised that they were never bored. My mother and I laughed and laughed at lunch yesterday and she kept grabbing the University of Wisconsin Bucky Badger I brought for her to her chest, so it wouldn't hurt so much when she did. (My mother's a U-W alumni club life-member.) "What did you say when your roommate called you a devil?"

"I told her she was lucky that she didn't have a roommate who was a lawyer. Now, she's telling people that I said I would call the cops, which I didn't say."

I also read her the NYT article on Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks and we cracked up.

Minutes ago, I switched over to e-mail to see the latest in my in-box and saw a note from a friend and colleague about her father's passing from a sudden heart attack, including wake information.

God, we never know how long we have and every funny conversation I can have with my mom is a blessing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to Get More Out of Therapy

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Bring Everything. Don't Be Defended.

"I can't wait to see how this shows up in your blog."

"Don't flatter yourself."

"Oh, I just assumed you posted every interaction."

Only the ones that inspire all right, I was inspired by the conversation I had with a friend, and so yes, here comes excerpts from it:

"The biggest risk of blogging about your therapy experience is that you will dissipate it. You'll blog about what you felt, but didn't say instead of bringing it to your therapist. You need to bring everything because then it's transformed from 'just talking' to being about a relationship. It's like object lesson in relationships. A lab."

"Ugh. I don't want to tell her that I felt her eyes were glazing over as I talked last time. I felt ashamed when I walked out for boring her. I don't want to have to tell her about being distracted by her attractiveness. About my competitive feelings."

"She needs to know: That freaked me out. I was afraid to go there. You're such a rich collection of things -- and further ahead of a number of people, who would not even recognize the feelings you've already recognized."

"Why do you like therapy?"

"I like crackling with the edge of my own understanding. It's like a good seminar, an amazing blend of intellectual and self-educating. I like the multi-facetedness of it -- that it can be about my work...and my childhood. There's no such thing as a tangent."

"Am I failing if it takes 20 years?"

She laughs, "I don't even think that way. [In sessions,] you're looking at *everything,* but not in an annoying way. For me, it starts like beads on a chain, usually processing the previous conversation. And you talk about what's in the room. Good ones will comment on what they're noticing."

"It sounds slow."

"I know. You're less patient than I am."

"And I don't want to tell her that it annoyed me when she asked me to think about whether I could change."

"She's heard it all. Whatever's going on, you'll project it onto your therapist."

"I have such unappealing stuff to project."

"Well, that's the difference between it being a matter of coasting vs. being super-challenging. If you feel edgy, that's it....The more you can feel while you're sitting there, the better."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Analyzing Myself with a Little Help

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Dropping into the Middle of Therapy

"You don't want to adapt, or you say you can't....So you are just hard-wired to be verbose?"

"Yes, congenitally. I don't want to learn to be succinct. [It's too hard.]"

"What if you could get a bigger repertoire?"


"These things you're telling me, they've probably been with you since the beginning of time, right?"

"Yes." [So how can you possibly think you're going to help me change them?]

At the Session's Start:

"I think this is interesting."

"It is."

"Last time, you nodded so understandingly -- or maybe that was a standard nod -- when I talked about breathing, and how I forget to when I'm afraid....And, also, last time, when you said you thought I'd win the competition, that is, that I'd tell stories and gain nothing from you, so I'd win, I was taken aback. Did I sound like I was trying to compete with you, or was that your stuff?"

"I *am* a very competitive person, but I'm not sure it was mine because usually, when it is, I have to think about what happened for days.

At the End of the Session

"See? I did it again. I do that to therapists. I just talk & talk & talk."

"Well, we need to know your story."

And then, since I had not really let her get a word in edge-wise for nearly 45 minutes, she responded to my observation about the breathing problem:

"The reason I shook my head so vigorously about the breathing is because it's so common."

"Can you fix it?"

"Usually, it fixes itself when you get to the bottom of the anxiety."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Might Not Be My Mother's Fault

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Recall for Bad Accelerators

Most important is that my mom's mobility is only temporarily impaired. Still, it's hopeful to learn that there's currently a question of whether the car had a faulty accelerator and caused the accident.

In any case, my mom's still laid up in the hospital and rehab for at least a couple of weeks, and she will not heal for up to eight weeks.

"Oh, God," I said to Pat when I first learned of my mom's cracked sternum, "She's already got a bad back --"

"Her sternum is her front, not her back," Pat explained.

"Oy, so now a bad back and a bad *front*. My poor mother."

My mother looks injured, with a mottled, right hand that's full of swelling and a silvery finger-splint on her index finger. And every time she moves, she yelps due to the sternum-damage.

This morning by phone:

"You sound better, Mom. You were a bit morose yesterday."

"Because I had had no sleep. How was I morose?"

"Well, you were needing to be convinced that it made sense to hang around for Max's and Sam's Bar Mitzvah [in two years]."

"Yeah, well --"

"And I need you to stick around for my Masters graduation."

"Don't make me laugh, Sarah, it hurts."

"I'm not joking."

"Kayla's coming today."

"Yeah, and I'll visit you after my therapy session tomorrow evening."

"Oh, good --"

"So that'll mean you'll just be on your own on Thursday and Friday, but we'll all see you over the weekend."

"Well, they're moving me on Thursday to the rehab anyway."

Writing this, I'm haunted by the nurse who offered yesterday, "The people I've seen do best in the hospital are the ones from ethnic families. They might not even understand English or what's going on exactly, but they're here with food and everyone's in the room continuously. Sometimes, they spill out of the room."

I recall, thinking at the time that the nurse was no doubt right and that she had better not use that as an excuse and blame us, if my mother's health failed, God forbid.

Yesterday morning, I called the local U.S. Post Office to request that my mom's mail be held for eight weeks.

"We hold it only for 30 days. Let's cross that bridge if we come to it, though."

In response, I felt both hopeful and worried. Did the postmaster mean, Your mother might be better by then, or God forbid...?

When I told her my mom's name (Edythe) and address, she said, "My mother's name was also Edith."

"You said, 'was.'"

"Yes," she sounded like she was smiling wistfully.

"I'm sorry to hear it."

The Scene

In the afternoon, I picked up the police report from the Bedford Street station, got directions from a lovely police officer and then drove to the scene of the accident to see it for myself.

There is another Stamford, which I never really noticed as vividly prior. Once I drove under the I-95 overpass, the sky and land suddenly opened up and I felt like I was in the Hamptons or any beachy area. I drove past the convenience store, where one of my best friends who lived in that neighborhood and I used to hang out when we were 11. She would wear her sparkly "Yes" rock-band T-shirt and look so cool and I would feel like her nerdy sidekick.

And then I kept going down Shippan Avenue, till it was time to turn down a street and see the aftermath. I took two camera-phone pictures, but my phone doesn't enable me to upload the photos. It was terrifying. The stone-wall had a bite-shaped chunk taken out of it, the width of my mom's car, and I saw that behind the wall was a 20-foot+ drop down to the owner's property. Thank God the car got caught on the wall. It creeps me out, writing about it.

My mother had a friend, whose car was hit earlier this year, and he is paralyzed from it. Thank you, God, that my mother was not more hurt than she was. And thank God I have therapy tomorrow eve.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

My Mother Had a Car Accident

Thank God, again, no other cars or people were involved.

[Strange man's voice answers my mother's cell-phone.] "Hello? Yes, well, I'm the paramedic, who brought your mother in [to the Emergency Room]."

"Thank you. Is she able to speak?"

"Yes, she's upset, but here she is:"

"My hand's deformed."

"What do you mean by deformed, Mom?"

"My hand's deformed."

"Twisted, like you broke it?"


"What else hurts?"

"My stomach. It must have been from the air-bag. I hit a brick wall."

"They said it was a stone-wall, Mom."

"Right, a stone-wall. I was turning out of Don's driveway and was on my way to Carolyn's for dinner."

"How fast were you going?"

"Must not have been that fast or I'd be dead."

"Well, luckily, a stonewall gives. A brick wall, less so. I'm glad you're able to talk."

"Yeah, well, my brain is fine, I think. They're going to do a blood test and CAT Scans and they're not sure they'll keep me overnight, but it's already so late and the tests will take hours."

"Well, Deb's [my oldest sister] almost there, so don't worry. She'll take you home if need be and stay with you."

I told Pat that when I told my mom Pat's theory, about her stomach hurting from the seat-belt and air-bag, my mother said, "I'm glad Pat has a theory, but she's not a doctor."

"Actually," Pat said, smiling in response, "I am," ["...just not a medical one."]

How comforting to have a cat to swaddle. She's lying on one of my sweaters and I just tucked one of my sweatshirts around her, which she seems to be relishing (a cat's version of relishing is that she doesn't bolt away from me and the covers).

God willing, my mom will be 84 on the 20th. All of us are feeling guilty. My mother had invited my sister Kayla and her husband to the concert after which the accident happened, but my sister had declined, saying she was too tired.

"Oh, Kayla, don't be silly," I said and then related how I had thought nothing of asking my mom to drive to Greenwich and home by herself in the dark the other night, to meet me for dinner prior to my therapy session.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Craving Hope

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

It's a Genuine Jones

Is that what therapy really is, at bottom? Paying someone to pay focused, platonically-loving attention to my thoughts and feelings?

Who wouldn't crave that? I'm wishing it were next Wednesday already.

Meanwhile, I'm lucky to be having a faraway friend, arriving at our home on Friday eve. Friends pay attention to each other, too, so that should tide me over.

Things that don't worry me as much or sadden me as much do so in times like these: Pat's gums are deep-red. It's not fair. She flosses religiously and brushes and mouthwashes nightly and yet, she might have gum-disease. What else could it be?

Two or three times, I've had a nightmare, where I lost my teeth. It was devastating each time. Please, God, don't hurt Pat's gums and teeth further. Please let the doctor give her a non-surgical cure on Monday. Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Relative Geyser of Hope

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Not That I Admitted It, or Necessarily Recognized It at the Time

She was good-looking; attractive face; nice haircut; older than I; not short, but small -- super-slim; I felt big next to her; her handshake was not firm, but was warm; a wedding ring made of side-by-side diamonds; a super-fancy watch, the brand of which I didn't recognize, other than that it was more than I could afford; a purposeful walk, but not quite a lesbian gait; tan corduroy vest; construction-paper pumpkin on her office-door; fancy office with brick walls and three little windows above my eyes' reach to see outside...and vice versa -- reminded me of windows in a TV jail-cell; a book on the desk that looked like a novel, but couldn't quite read the title without being obvious; she pulled a chair up and put up her feet, which were clad in dark-brown, glossy-leather, flat ankle-boots; she leaned her notepad on her knees and began taking notes, which made me feel important; I couldn't help noticing the hip and leg closest to me as she began writing, but shooed away my distraction.

"I'm going to take some notes, too," I said. "I've never done that in therapy, but I think I want to now." (Either it made her uncomfortable, or she didn't care.)

"I just think that when two people are in a room and one is the focus of attention, good things can happen," said this new therapist when, if I remember correctly, I asked her why I should believe in therapy.

"I just come in and I tell stories. That's all I've ever done with a therapist. They're entertained -- not to flatter myself -- but what did I get?"

"Telling stories is good. Constructing a narrative is an integrative experience."

"What does 'integrative' mean in this case?"

"You talk about things that are disparate and it might not be an 'Aha moment,' but you might feel better or click at a deeper level."

(Now, *that* would be a relief -- to see connections I hadn't thought of...but I didn't tell the therapist that.)

Earlier in the session:

"How does your fear manifest itself?"

"...whenever I can't yawn, I know I'm in trouble. I used to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes -- not fast, but still, I hardly breathed while doing it. That's why swimming's so good. I *have* to breathe. I forget to breathe." (She's nodding like she actually understands me! That's comforting.)

More: "I'm afraid I'll lose my house. I'm afraid my mother will die, and then my partner, and then I'll be alone. I'm afraid there won't be another great act in me. I hate imagining 10 years into the future, but I can't stop doing so."

"It sounds like it's extremely hard to be you. What do you do to self-soothe?"

"...Not a lot....I have Pat, who's very funny -- but God knows what it has cost her to be so supportive....I have two cats who help a lot....I have my mother and sisters....I actually like focusing on writing papers for school....My one drug is TV; I totally tranquilize myself with it...and Facebook. I have 700+ friends on Facebook [-- I look over and see her eyebrows rise; she seems to be marveling, rather than judgmental, but I can't be sure]. I don't really keep up with world news; I prefer to look at Facebook friends' news and it's a lot to keep up with....I read the odd book, but mostly, they're school-books...."

"Do you have friends?"

"I do, but I don't really spend time with them." Then I said that I "don't cultivate" them, but what I meant was that I don't maintain my friendships like I should, i.e., I don't tend to them.

After mentioning, parenthetically, that my dad died when I was in high school:

"Did your mother re-marry?"


"What happened to your father?"

"He died of bile-duct cancer, within six months, when he was 56."

Still later:

"Am I addicted to suffering?"

She was doubtful about the concept of a suffering addiction and added, "One of the ways you take care of yourself is to beat up on yourself....It's a habit."

"Can you help me?"

"I don't know, but you're hopeful in that you're looking for help."

"I'm not hopeful. I'm desperate."

"You don't need to be hopeful to get help."

"When I was looking randomly at the list of local therapists in my insurance network, I noticed that one of them called out her specialty in helping gay and lesbian people, but I'm actually at a point where the lesbian part of my identity is less important than my professional identity.

I used to need help primarily about feeling good as a lesbian, and now, I need help feeling good in my life's purpose....Um, I can't fathom that you're homophobic, but I guess I'd like to know if so, so I can leave now if that's the case."

"It used to be that homosexuality was considered a perversion --"

(Oy! Where's she going with this?)

And then she continued without ever answering my question directly, "When you were talking earlier about going to a lesbian therapist who had helped get homosexuality removed from the DSM list [of mental disorders], I was reminded of a book I'm reading, *Boyhoods,* by Ken Corbett -- the partner of Michael Cunningham, who wrote *The Hours,* and how Corbett feels that everything is really part of a continuum -- how a boy who wears a tutu provokes people, who wonder: Is he going to be gay? Will he be an artist? A sensitive guy? Transgender? And how it doesn't really matter; he writes with feminism and queer theory in mind --"

(She just passed a test unwittingly by saying, "transgender," rather than "transgendered." People who have a clue/who have read about GLBT/LGBT issues, know that transpeople are "transgender," not "transgendered." Phew!)

"...I'm kind of old-school....Just as I am a very identified Jew, I'm a very identified lesbian. Even as I know that categories aren't all there are, I'm more comfortable with them."

The therapist said fine by her shrug, rather than by her words.

And you didn't answer my question directly, and I'd expect you to have *some* homophobia --"

She nodded.

"But as long as you're not [actively] homophobic...."

She nodded again.

At the End of the Session:

"So how did I do?"

"You did well," I said quietly without looking up. We arranged a time for next week and then:

"How about me? How did I do?"

"Can I be frank?"

(Oh, God, what devastating thing will she say?) "Of course!" I looked over at the book on her desk then.

"I think you're going to have a problem sticking with it, since you've had bad experiences in the past."

"I don't think your prediction will be true."

"If you could see me in my private practice, I'd recommend twice a week."

(Oh, God, I must be super-sick!) "Why?"

"Because I think that 45 minutes once a week lets you reconstitute yourself [too much in between sessions]. Despite all that you've told me about how you feel, you're a very high-functioning person; you're sophisticated and I think you'll [become defended by going so long between sessions]."

(God, twice a week sounds *great*!) "Well, I probably can't afford it, and besides, I'm compulsively busy, so I don't know how I'd fit in two sessions, but...."


"Well, thank you; see you next time," I said, and felt an awkwardness and a sacredness at once.

The book was *The Elegance of the Hedgehog.* When I got home, I googled it and felt a surge of hope, that maybe a new set of ears -- trained ones, attached to a person with apparently good taste in fiction -- could do me good.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fighting a Taboo

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Having Second Thoughts

...but I have to combat them. I'm feeling ashamed:

Why do I need to tell the world what I'm thinking? Why *isn't* a private journal-entry relief enough? And yet I know I'm not alone in my human struggles. Or maybe this is my repeated test to confirm that I'm not alone.

A friend of Phoebe -- Toonces was not similarly fond of him -- disappeared apparently. My partner Pat saw a photo of him up at Shop-Rite; his name is Brien and he lives on Alexander Ave., down the street. He weighs 13 pounds. The photo features Brien, reclining on an indoor couch. We only knew him as "the gentlman caller." He used to visit the girls at the sliding glass door of our house. I can't imagine him indoors....If only he had stayed indoors.

Pat just turned to me and said, "Sydney died."

"How do you know?"

"It says, 'RIP, Sydney,' on Jan's site."

Sydney was a miniature pinscher. She had a brain tumor. She was hyper and warm and wiry and affection-loving. Thank God, k'ayn ayeen ha'rah/minus the evil eye, Pat and the kitties and I are physically healthy. I just need to get mentally healthy again. Pat continues to be Pat, funny and supportive and my best friend, and I'm so grateful.

My dad of blessed memory's 27-year Yahrzeit (death anniversary) was yesterday. And yesterday, my mom's therapist called with a recommendation for a therapist I could meet. It felt like both of my parents were taking care of me yesterday. Tomorrow evening is my first meeting.

I am skeptical, but hungry for hope.