Monthly Archives: April 2013

Day 120: A walk down Boylston Street, Boston, on April 29, 2013

Yesterday, after I parked my car and was about to walk to work, I realized I had two hours before I had any appointments. Because my parking garage was close enough, I spontaneously decided to walk, in the opposite direction, down Boylston Street in Boston, towards the location of the Marathon bombings.

Two days before, Boylston Street was re-opened to traffic and to business. And as was reported, many people showed up that day, to walk down the street.

I don’t know why everybody went there on Saturday. I assume that some of them were — like me — long-time Boston residents, feeling ready for another way to heal, to proceed towards a new sense of “normalcy.”

I felt ready enough, yesterday morning, to go there (perhaps partly because of the blog post I had just written).

The rest of this post is going to be a photo essay, as I show you that walk I took yesterday morning down Boylston Street, through the familiar, through my fears and sadness about how the familiar had changed, and back again.

I am probably going to write more about the familiar, and less about the unfamiliar.


The above is the first photo I took yesterday morning.

I’m walking down Ipswich Street, approaching Boylston Street. The streets that intersect Boylston are alphabetical, going from Arlington to Ipswich. So, according to my calculations, I am now about 4.5 blocks away from the finish Line of the Marathon (which is located between Dartmouth and Exeter Street).


This was the second photo I took, and it was the first location I captured on Boylston Street, itself. This is near the corner of Ipswich and Boylston, very close to that first picture, above. (You can actually see the red Berklee flag in the first picture).

I have great associations with Berklee College of Music. First of all, I love jazz. It’s been my favorite genre of music since I was 13 years old. Also, I went to Berklee (then called Berklee School of Music) for two summer programs, when I was 15 and 16 years old. Here’s another reason I have great memories of Berklee: in my previous career (in advertising and corporate video), my business partner, Jonathan, and I had the wonderful experience (in the 1990’s) of creating the promotional video for Berklee, which was sent to prospective applicants to the school. Making that video, taping hours of incredible jazz playing by faculty and students, and interviewing the people there, who all were teaching or learning something they loved, was such a fabulous experience.


This is a very cool building, a block down Boylston Street. These are my foremost associations/memories with this building — (1) the building won a big architectural prize a while ago, (2) there used to be a Tower Records there, and (3) I got to meet my Guitar Hero, Pat Metheny, there (he was signing albums at the Tower Records) and I got to tell him how much I appreciated him.

Looking at this picture this morning reminds me that Boston is filled with exceptions to every rule (it also reminds me that I am more distracted than usual, these days). I already told you that the streets that intersect Boylston go alphabetically from A to I (Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, Hereford, and Ipswich) and I used that rule to calculate my distance above. Wrong! This building is at the corner of Boylston and Massachusetts Avenue (a main thoroughfare through Boston and the suburbs of Cambridge, Arlington,and Lexington) , which is a non-alphabetical interruption between Ipswich and Gloucester. (Boston: Home of Confusing Exceptions to Rules.)

So revising my estimate — which was based on rules but is now based on reality — at this point I am about 4.5 blocks away from the finish line.


It’s been a little while since I’ve walked down this stretch of Boylston (between Mass Ave and Gloucester) and I had never seen this before, so I wanted to take a picture of it. Again, I heart Berklee.


I am still between Mass Ave and Gloucester. I’ve always noticed this parking garage, from when I first went to Berklee. The fence in the foreground indicates that I am crossing over the Mass Pike. I might mildly resent that this enormous fence gets in the way of my taking a better picture, but I feel protected (since I am sometimes afraid of heights and falling, and I never feel scared walking over the Mass Pike, thanks to this fence).



This was my first encounter with obvious evidence of the events of April 15. I am not going to say much about these images, but just present them to you. The above is the fire station on Boylston. It’s very close to the previous picture, before Gloucester Street.


The poster in the photo above, signed by many.



A close up of the poster above.



Another signed poster, in front of the fire department.



The Hynes Convention Center, on the other side of Boylston Street, right near Gloucester.



A statue that I’ve always liked, in front of the Prudential Center. This is also on the other side of Boylston Street, between Gloucester and Fairfield.



At the corner of Fairfield Street, looking down Boylston toward Dartmouth. This is the side of the street where the bombings took place.



Still walking down Boylston, past Abe and Louie’s Restaurant.



This is approximately where the second bomb went off, between Fairfield and Exeter.



This is what was closer towards the street, on that spot, on Monday. I took several close-ups of what had been placed there …




I was the only one I noticed taking pictures, and while I was taking those above, I felt a little strange. Everybody else who was walking by seemed to be there just to return to their usual routines. I did notice that as I was taking these pictures , though, other people joined me to stop and look for a little while.

At this point, I felt pretty emotional and shaky. Right as I turned to walk further down Boylston, I noticed a very familiar place.


I ordered my usual Starbucks order, and as I was waiting, it felt familiar to me to ask somebody who looked kind and open, if I could take a picture of him and put him in my blog. (I’ve done similar things before, including at another Starbucks.)


This is Gabriel. I know I was distracted that morning, because I forgot to take more than one picture of him, and I forgot to ask him if he was okay with the picture I took. I don’t love this picture, personally, because I don’t think it captures how great he was. Or maybe it does.



After I left Starbucks, holding my chai tea latte, I walked toward the site of the first explosion, looking across the street at the Boston Public Library.



This is what I saw as I approached and walked closer to Marathon Sports, between Exeter and Dartmouth.




There was no marking — with flowers, messages, or items — at the site of the first bombing. I stood here for a little while, taking the pictures above. Then I moved to the next store front, closer to the finish line.


There were some workers standing outside. The door was open, as you can see, and work was being done on the interior. I noticed the Lao Tzu quote, “Act without expectation” which reminded me of the familiar — that is, “helpful” thoughts I’ve written about in this blog, through this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally. (For example, losing one’s investment in the outcome.)

The three guys who were standing outside — whom you can barely see in the above picture — interacted with me, after I took this picture. They made eye contact and I said, “How are you?” One of them answered, “Living the dream,” which I loved. They asked if they were in my way, and I indicated that I had already taken a picture of the Lao Tzu quote. I then said, “Thank you,” starting to cry. (I felt so sad.) One of them said, very gently, “That’s okay, ma’am.”

I walked away, crying a little, hearing the echo of those spoken words.

This was the next thing I noticed.




This was across the street, as I headed back from where I had started. I thought those plants on top of the Lenox Hotel marquis were so beautiful, below that sign thanking the first responders (with the little heart of love).



Walking back up the street, re-approaching the site of the second bomb.



It was such a beautiful morning. At some point I realized that Gabriel, from Starbucks, was walking in front of me, wearing ear phones. I caught up with him and we talked a little as we walked a short distance together. He was, again, warm and friendly. He told me where he was from, which was not from this area. He told me he really liked it in Boston. We spoke a little bit about the recent events and I expressed my sadness. Gabriel acknowledged how sad things were, and also spoke to how things were already starting to seem better. I felt that, too.



Another view of that statue I like in front of the Prudential.



Looking back up Boylston, in front of the convention center.



As I reached the corner of Mass Ave. I saw Eugene. We spoke a little. He told me that he has been shining shoes for 30 years. I asked how he was and he said, “Up and down, up and down, but for the most part, it works out.” As Eugene and I were talking, he recognized a customer, who sat down to get his shoes shined.


The customer was Eric. Eric told me he is a faithful, regular customer of Eugene’s. Eric is the Chair of Jazz Composition at Berklee. I told Eric that I had many fond memories of Berklee.

I’ll end this photo essay with more of the familiar. I stopped by Fenway Studios, on Ipswich Street, as I walked to work, to visit with Paul Nagano for a few minutes. Paul is an old friend and a wonderful artist.

This is Paul, standing in front of one of his wonderful watercolors.


I was so glad I got to see him that day.

Thanks to every person who appeared in this post, in one way or another. And thanks to you, for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 119: I woke up differently, this morning

Waking up, this morning, felt different.

Here’s what I noticed:

Even though I was having some anxiety-based dreams, right before I awoke (where I was trying to find my way through a huge concrete compound, with lots of elevators, accompanied by people whose motives and feelings towards me were ambiguous, at best) …

Even though I usually access worries or problem-solving as I am first waking up  …

This morning, I awoke towards peace.

And when my thoughts first turned towards this blog post (moments after awakening), the title that occurred to me was, “How to Move Towards Peace,”  because I wanted to share this feeling and my newly hatched “wisdom” about it.

But I’m not sure whether I have the wisdom, yet, to formulate a “How To.”

For now, I just want to express gratitude that my natural inclination, this morning, was to move toward peace, to find moments of it before and as I was reaching consciousness, and to know that I might encounter moments of that in others, today.

I don’t need to encounter it today, but I am open to seeing it.  In this moment, I feel open to seeing  everything else I encounter today.

Including my son, who just woke up.

Thanks for meeting me here, today.

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Day 118: We really don’t know how we affect other people

About a year ago, I finally got up the courage, for the first time, to start writing a book,. (See this blog post for some thoughts about “The P-Word” —  procrastination.)

I started this blog, on 1/1/13,  as way to move forward with that book. During my first days of blogging — and overcoming my natural insecurity of doing something new — I sometimes “went to the well” of what I had already written: the draft of my book.

And when I posted chapters of the book (here, here, here, and here), I got good feedback and comments.

But I’ve resisted quoting chapters from this book,  for the most part, as I’ve continued blogging.


Because I wrote that stuff last year, people!  And I feel like I’ve been learning so much, every day since then — writing these posts, doing my work,  meeting new people, having new conversations with friends, thinking new thoughts  — that I assume that what I wrote months ago is now “out-moded.”

Also, I usually wake up in the morning wanting to write about what feels relevant “in the moment,” as a way to help me deal with whatever is facing me that day.

Also (I confess),  I can be very self-critical.  I often have fears of reading what I’ve written before, because I know that my inner critic — my internalized judgment — might be present, and I don’t want to hear what that critic has to say.

My worst fear is this: if that harsh, inner critic is present when I re-read what I’ve written before, I might stop writing.

And I want to keep writing.

So I’ve resisted reading what I’ve written before — in my book and in these blog posts.

At the same time, writing these blog posts has been helping to quiet down my inner critic.  Which has been wonderful.  So I’ve gotten up the courage, every once in a while, to re-read previous blog posts and look at chapters I’ve written for the book.  I’ve looked at something  I’ve created and said, “It was good (enough).”

So what does this post —  that I’m writing now — have to do with the friggin’ title?  You know, that title you read, a while ago:  “We really don’t know how we affect other people.”

Here’s the deal:  I wrote a chapter, for the book, with that title. And I woke up this morning thinking about that topic.

And I’ve decided that I’d like to share the draft of that chapter, here, today.

So, here it is, ladies and gentlemen ….


We Really Don’t Know How We Affect Other People

(Draft of Chapter #? from AFOG: Another F***ing Opportunity for Growth)

 by Ann Koplow

When I am supervising and teaching social work students, here’s one of the (perhaps more annoying) things I might say to them:

“While you are working with people,  you may offer an insight, analysis, or other intervention that you just know is brilliant — that encompasses everything you know about this work.  But that comment — while it shows creativity, empathy, and skill — may not be the game changer you hope it is.  On the other hand, you will say or do things you barely notice which  have a major impact on somebody’s healing. We just don’t know.”

I don’t know how that speech affects my students.  But here’s an example from my experience.

One day, many years ago,  I was talking to my own therapist about some difficult memories of feeling scared, lonely, and sad in the hospital. When I shivered almost imperceptibly, she offered me a blanket, rushed to get it when I nodded, and handed it to me.

When I think about my years of therapy with her, that’s the first memory that often comes to mind.  The blanket. How she noticed I was cold and frightened.  How she asked me if I wanted a blanket. How I said yes. How she gave it to me. How comforting it felt, as I went on, now warmer, to tell her more.

During our work together, she showed me, in so many  beautiful and effective ways,  that she heard and accepted me.  But it’s the blanket she offered me one rainy, raw day that touched me in a way nothing else had.

Who knew? She probably didn’t, either.

I think about that blanket, sometimes,  when I feel proud — or when I feel nervous — about something I’ve said or done as a therapist to others.

© 2013 Ann Koplow


Here’s the reason I wanted to include that chapter here, today.

Last night, my son and I had dinner with an old friend, Jon, whom I’ve known since Junior High School, and his wife, Debbie.  Jon had reached out to me yesterday, at around 5 PM, out of the blue, and invited us to join them for dinner. And we were able and happy to do so.

Jon and I were both really tired and also (I think) more stressed than usual, partly because of what happened here in Boston on April 15 (the Marathon bombings).  So, over dinner, he and I were having some heated discussions about how the authorities had responded to the situation in Boston.

I got mad at him, during dinner, and expressed it.  I felt a little bad about that, at the time,  because I don’t feel particularly comfortable with my own anger (I’m working on it!).

Last night at dinner, I was afraid that my anger might have hurt the other people at the table (especially my son, who is 15). But after the dinner, when my son and I were driving home, I found out what my son and my friend’s wife had been doing when I had been getting pissed off at Jon.  They, apparently, were looking at each other, smiling, and getting a kick out of it.

In other words, it was fine. My worst fear — that my anger had been hurtful and inappropriate, to a damaging degree — was not true.

I really didn’t know how I was affecting people at the table.

And, one more thing, before I end this post.

My friend’s lovely and kind wife, Debbie, told me last night that she is reading this blog. And she appreciates it. And she’s getting something out of it.

That means the world to me.

I didn’t know how I was affecting her.

We really don’t know.

Thanks to you for reading today. And thanks to Jon, Debbie, and — last, but certainly not least — my son.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Day 117: Marcia Kind (and Strong)

This post is about my college roommate, Marcia.

It’s a weekend post, so my urge is to write a longer post, especially since it’s about somebody I love.

However, I am also really tired, since I didn’t get enough sleep last night.  (I am working on getting more sleep, but I seem to be one of Those People Who Can Function Without Enough Sleep.) (As opposed to Those People Who Can Function Without Enough Food.) (Perhaps the topic of a future post? Time will tell.*)

Because I am so tired as I am writing this, I am going to be kind to myself and  my readers and keep today’s post short(er).

This is what I most want you to know about Marcia, right now:

She is smart, kind, funny, strong, honest, and beautiful.  She helped me feel welcome and safe when I arrived at college, which was a new and scary experience for me.  She has always engaged with me in an authentic and loving way.

Here’s what — I think —  has gotten in the way of us being closer at times:  insecurity. (If you want to read a super-short post about how insecurity can get in the way of intimacy, see this post, called “Barriers to Connection.”)

I confess: I have compared myself to Marcia, at times,  and felt “inferior.”

Comparisons — when these comparisons are unhelpful —  are a “cognitive distortion.”  My personal definition of cognitive distortions, this morning?  It’s a human way of thinking that can get in the way of connecting with other people on this planet.  (That statement is based on more than 50 years of eager curiosity and observation.) (Your mileage — and experience — may vary.)

Anyway, I could write a lot more about cognitive distortions, and how comparisons can cause so much personal pain and disconnection …. but I won’t. Not today.

Today, I want to post (with her permission) an e-mail that Marcia wrote me, four days ago, on April 23:

Hi Ann:

I have been meaning to comment on a couple of things that really resonate for me in your blog. Much of what you advise makes me think of how my mom, the sanest, wisest person I’ve known so far, used to help us deal with life’s difficulties. These are strategies I still use, and our kids use, to get past the rough spots.

First, you wisely advise your reader to “let go of your investment in the outcome.” Mom used to always tell us that once you’ve done the very best you can to achieve something, or fix something, or change something, you’ve got to let go and accept that you’re not in control. Her most frequent suggested response to an apparent stone wall in our lives, a determined opponent, an unfair decision, an insurmountable handicap was to “put yourself in neutral” for awhile, take stock, coast, until the next appropriate gear decides to kick in. This, we knew, was the manual transmission version of “cool your jets.” It doesn’t mean stop or withdraw or give up or go back. It implies forward momentum, after all, but it doesn’t strain your engine!! We had a wonderful 1872 book of essays by a man named Charles Dudley Warner of Hartford, Connecticut called “My Summer in a Garden.” He advises us all to “Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations; it does not much matter if things do not turn out well.” I guess that pretty much sums it up!

You’ve also hit on another brilliant perspective of my mom’s. Things are not always what they seem to be. People are not always thinking, or feeling the things you fear that they are thinking or feeling. A good approach to a person who SEEMS to be your nemesis is, mom said, to “kill them with kindness.” Real kindness. There is no weapon more effective than sincere friendliness. It confuses your enemy.(if he is, in fact, your enemy) Everyone believes in his heart of hearts that he deserves to be treated well. You have the power to give people the thing they secretly long for. Call people by name when you talk to them. Everyone likes to hear their own name. It’s also a sweet way to let a difficult person know that you “know where they live.” It is curiously effective to harness a desire for vengeance and convert it to positive action. At first it’s hard work, but it never fails to give you the upper hand, or at least the moral high ground!

And…last comment for now…an ongoing belief of mine that is a subtext of your blog is that we have to let ourselves be “surprised by joy” every day. Wordsworth really “got away with words,” as my baby niece once said. No matter how dark the valley, how horrible the sadness, how irreparable the loss, at some level it fails to reach us. We struggle to absorb and fully realize the evil realities in life. Suddenly, as you often comment, the trees are blooming, and they are beautiful. Lots of people are still brave and funny and loving. As Emerson said, “I am constantly defeated, yet to victory I am born.”

Anyway, there’s a response of sorts to what you’re writing. I’m not just a free rider anymore! You remind me of Wordsworth, or Emerson, or, better yet, my Mom! I hope this finds you feeling that the universe has its arms around you. I also hope that you and the people of Boston are all breathing easier and reclaiming the right to live your lives with abandon.


That’s the end of our blog post for the day, ladies and gentlemen.

My thanks to you for reading. Also, thanks to Marcia, Wordsworth,  Emerson,  Charles Dudley Warner, and — last but not least — Marcia’s mom.


* This is a shout-out to another person I love, who I hope is reading this, too!

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 116: I just rewrote yesterday’s blog post

When  I write a blog post on Thursdays (like yesterday’s),  I get a little more space and time to write — an extra hour or two — before I go into work in the morning.    Then, my Thursdays are crazy/busy, and I get home quite late at night,  so I don’t have time to rewrite or even reread the long post I’ve written in the morning.

Here are some critical/judgmental thoughts I had this morning, when I finally got a chance to re-read yesterday’s post:

Your blog posts on Thursdays are the worst!  Longer, more rambling, with no time to rewrite or even re-read!! That  is a recipe for DISASTER!  

Arrghh!  There are so many parts of this post that don’t make sense!  

Look at how you combined the universal with the personal, in such klutzy ways! And you talked about stuff that would gross out most readers, including how you’ve gotten endocarditis in the past!  Yikes!  What were you thinking?


What is the matter with you?  You had better rewrite this post, now, before you even think about writing today’s post.

Phew!  That was amazing … to write down those critical thoughts.  I find it painful, but helpful, to get them out of my head.

It helps to write them down, because then I can see the cognitive distortions that are going on.  I’m seeing Mind Reading, Catastrophizing, Labeling, and several more. (If you want, you can read this list of cognitive distortions and see if you recognize other ones in my judgmental thoughts, above.) (Even better, maybe you’ll recognize some of your own judgmental thoughts there, too.)

AND I am  so happy to report something that feels good and new this morning. 

I was able to stop the more toxic, painful  judgmental thoughts I was having — upon re-reading yesterday’s post — almost immediately, even before I started writing this post.


I was automatically, unconsciously using remedies to these thoughts, which I’ve been collecting (and sharing with others, here.). 

It’s so great that I was able to do that, without even thinking!

To repeat, yay!

I think I was able to do that, this morning, because I’m getting to do groups I love doing, at work, where we focus on reducing unhelpful thoughts (as well as other ways to cope and to heal). 

The very thing that prevented me from re-writing a better blog post yesterday — doing two groups yesterday, at work, including one in the evening — helped me let go of judgmental thoughts more quickly, this morning.

I think that is very, very cool.

After I let go of the shameful, toxic judgmental thoughts,  this morning, I did a very quick re-write of yesterday’s blog post, so I felt it was “good enough.”  For me, that means that even though the blog post was long and digressive, even though it combined the universal (I hope) and the personal, it still made enough sense, so that most readers  could probably follow it and get something out of it.

I was able to do that quickly enough to turn my attention to writing todays’ blog post.

Now,  I believe that I will be able to meet my priorities this morning, which are as follows:

(1) Take care of my son, well enough, so that he has what he needs to get to school on time.

(2) (TIE with #1, above)  Take care of myself, well enough, by (a)  doing # 1, above, (b) writing a good enough blog post in the morning before I go to work (which has been helping sustain me, through some difficult times), (c) getting the food and preparation I need,  and (d) leaving early enough so that I’m not rushing, with anxiety, to work.

(3)  Get to work, sustained well enough, so I can do work I feel passionately about, which includes helping people heal and move on with their lives.

I think I’ve written previous blog posts here about several issues I’ve alluded to in that above list, including (1) setting priorities as a way not to be overwhelmed and (2) how it’s important to focus on your own needs, as a way to be more available to others.

But you know what?  My son’s alarm just went off, and I want to check in with him. So I’m not going to take the time, right now, to look for the links to these previous blog posts.   So you’re on your own with that. If you’re interested in finding more about those things, they are here in my blog, in previous posts.

And who knows?  Maybe I’ll get some time, soon, to re-read this post and make this one even better, too — including inserting helpful links to previous things I’ve written.

But for now, dear reader, I believe this post is good enough to publish.

And I have complete faith in you, to figure out what your needs are and to get what you need, in order to change and grow– which may or may not include what I offer you, here.

Thanks, this morning, for reading my good enough post(s).

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Day 115: Boston Kind (and Strong)

Something I’ve been noticing a lot, during this Year of Living Mindfully (that’s actually a better title for this blog, but it’s too late to change it!) ….  is kindness.  I’ve blogged about that quite a bit, including here, here, and here.

That first linked post is about kindness I encountered away from home, in February — in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina.

The second post is about kindness I deliberately decided to notice after I returned home — to beautiful Boston, Massachusetts.

The third one is about my realization that kindness, lately, has been making me cry  even harder than cruelty has — and in a healing way.

And whenever I write about people who are on “My Teams” (the people who support me)  — like here and here — I’m writing about kindness, too. That’s because Kindness and Competency are my two main criteria, when I’m picking team members.

I think kindness is all around us.  I  see it.  I think I always have — when I’m open to it.

Sometimes, of course, it is very difficult — if not impossible —  to see that kindness. Especially when cruelty is unmistakably present in the moment.

My experience on April 13, in Boston

As I wrote on April 16,  I was in Boston on April 13, two days before this year’s marathon, walking around the site of the future bomb blasts, with my son. The proximity of that experience — in time and space — to the violence, danger, and cruelty on April 15 — felt traumatizing to me after the bomb blasts occurred.

What I haven’t told you yet was this:  WHY I was in Boston with my son, on April 13.

There was another reason why April 13, 2013, was a happy day for me. Another reason,  in addition to sharing — with my son and hundreds of other people —  the excitement and anticipation that has always preceded every Boston Marathon.

I haven’t told you another reason why my  memories of that day – when I was, with my son, in such close proximity to the violence and cruelty to come — were such good ones, that — when the bomb blasts occurred — I feared those good memories might be tainted for ever.

I was there, a few blocks from the Marathon finish line, with my son, on April 13  for ….

Dental appointments.

Dental appointments!  Geesh!  I’m assuming THAT was a surprise to read.

Dental appointments, which a lot of people might find a little traumatizing (and painful and even cruel, sometimes, too).

But I was happy to be there. (And my son had a good time, too, believe it or not.)

And that is amazing, especially for me.

Some background about why a trip to dentist might be scarier,  for me. (Which I am putting in italics, because it’s the most personal section of this post, and I’m assuming some readers might want to skip or skim it.)

I have some reasons to be more scared of dental appointments, than most people.  As I’ve also written about this year, I have an unusual heart which makes me prone to endocarditis. (I’ve  gotten endocarditis three times within the last 15 years, but have caught it early enough to prevent any damage to my heart.)  And a month ago (as I blogged about, of course), I thought I had endocarditis, again.  I didn’t.

Question: What do 10 out of 10 doctors say would cause endocarditis, in somebody like me?

Answer: Any chance for bacteria in my mouth to enter the bloodstream.

In other words, any time my gums bleed, I am at heightened risk to get endocarditis, which — unless somebody vigilantly catches this almost immediately — will cause heart damage.

So, you can probably understand why anything — like going to the dentist — that might make my gums bleed, for any reasons, might feel extremely dangerous to me.

By the way, my medical team and I work very hard to prevent the danger. These extreme measures include my getting my teeth cleaned every three months, after I get an intravenous hit of anti-biotics. 

Why — despite excellent reasons why a trip to the dentist would be especially awful, for me —  my trip to the dentist on April 13 was wonderful.

Here’s why.  My dentist, Dr. Luis Del Castillo, of 77 Beacon Street, Boston MA.


He is — besides being an excellent dentist — one of the kindest people I have ever met.

Really. A kind dentist!  Go figure.

And, like kind people I have met everywhere, he likes to work with kind people.  Here is Stephane, one of the other wonderful people at his dental office:


I met Stephane for the first time, that day.   She was incredibly welcoming and thoughtful, explaining everything to me and asking me, frequently, with the kindest voice, “Are you okay, Ann?”

The Kindness of Strangers kills me.

What I mean by that is this:  I am unbelievably touched when people who don’t know me seem authentically and beautifully kind.

It means a lot to me, because of my experiences as a child (in the hospital, in a time and place where parents couldn’t stay with their kids).

It means a lot, to a lot of people.

And I LOVED the way Dr. Del Castillo and Stephane interacted with each other, too, as they were working with me that day. I wrote a note about it, so I could remember it (and put it in my blog).

This was the interaction I noted:

Dr. Del Castillo (after successfully completing a procedure in my mouth, that was a little tricky):  YES!!!

Stephane (to me):  Have you ever seen anybody get that excited about dentistry?

Me:  No. That is one of the things I love about him.

I’m looking at my  line, above, and I’m noticing that I didn’t name — to Dr. Del Castillo in the moment — the other things I love about him, which are:  (1)  how kind he is and (2) how accessible he’s been to me, when I’ve been scared about something.

Dr. Del Castillo, if you’re reading this, I hope you know — at least, now —  those things I appreciate, so much, in you.

Because of the kind way Dr. Del Castillo and Stephane were acting with me — and with each other — that day, I knew I was going to put them in my blog.  I figured I would write about them within the next couple of days. Perhaps on April 16.

But then, other events ensued, delaying my writing about my wonderful experience at the dentist — until today.

Back to my point (and I did have one) about kindness.

When I am open to it, I see kindness around me.

It’s there. Sometimes it’s hidden, by the cruelty that can be around us, too.

Here’s something else I think:

Experiencing pain can make us kinder, to those around us.  Not always.  But it can happen, for sure.

I’ve seen that — in myself and in others.

I think I’m seeing that now, in Boston.

Evidence backing up my observation that people are being kinder in Boston, now.

I’m more distracted, right now, like most people in Boston. As a result, when I’m driving, it can take me a second to realize a light has changed.

Since April 15, when I’m sitting at a light and it changes, I notice my own distraction and step on the gas pedal  (and here’s the punchline) …. BEFORE I hear a car beep.

This reminds me of a joke I heard on a David Letterman show, many years ago.  It went something like this:

Scientists have identified the smallest measurable time span. It’s the amount of time between a light turning green and the guy behind you hitting his horn.

But people are not hitting their horns, now, IN BOSTON. For those of you who are familiar with that area of the U.S.,  THAT is headline news. (How come you’re not all over that, CNN?  Huh?)

That huge change, which I’m observing,  might just be evidence of something else. It might mean that everybody else — besides me — is more distracted.  So they’re forgetting to hit their horns.

I am observing that people in Boston, in general, are more distracted.  That is true.

But I’m also seeing more patience with each other’s distraction, here in Boston.

My final point, so I can finish this post.

On my walk, yesterday, between the hospital where I work and Fenway Park, near where I park my car each day, I saw this:


A few moments after I took this picture, some guy stopped me, trying to sell me something.  I told him, kindly (I hope), that I wasn’t buying.

Then, he asked if he could give me a hug, and I said, yes.  After the hug, as I was walking away, he said, “I hope I didn’t offend you.”  I said, “You didn’t.”

Now, maybe he gave me a hug because I was wearing my badge, which identified me as a social worker in one of the Boston hospitals, which have been in the news lately. (I was too distracted to realize I was still wearing it, at that point.)

I don’t think so, though.  I don’t think he noticed that.

I think he gave me a hug because we were both in Boston.

Boston Strong AND …

Boston Kind.

That’s what I wanted to tell you, today.

Thanks for reading, wherever you are.

P.S.  As always, dear reader,  if you think it would help you or anybody else to re-blog or otherwise share any post I write here, please feel free to do so. Thanks!

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Day 114: Questions in my brain, as I woke up this morning

Question:  What do you want to blog about today?

Answer:  I have no friggin’ idea.  Wait!  I have too many friggin’ ideas.

Question: What is your definition of doing group work, this morning?

Answer: It’s when I get to help make a room safe enough, so that people can talk about themselves in a way that helps themselves and the other people in the room.

Question: Why do you love doing group work so very, very much?

Answer:  Because people are so friggin’ amazing.

Question:  Why do the brains of people, who are so friggin’ amazing, generate harmful thoughts, sometimes?

Answer:  I have no friggin’ idea.

Question:  In reference to that last question, what joke occurred to you?

Answer:  I used to think the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body.  And then I thought, “Look what’s telling me that.”  — Emo Philips

Question:  What else do you want to tell people this morning?

Answer:  Thank you so much — for reading, for thinking, for feeling, for all that you do.

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Day 113: I am solving problems in my sleep!

Well, I may not be getting a lot of sleep — during this Year of Doing Things that Scare the Hell Out of Me — BUT here’s something I’m noticing:

I am solving problems while I am sleeping.

This is what I mean by that:

All year, whenever I’ve had to do something that scares me (like a presentation, for example) (today!), I wake up in the morning — BING! — with ideas that are going to help me that day.

I wake up with specific ideas about How to Do that Anxiety-Provoking Task.

What are the tasks which have been causing me anxiety this year?

(1) Presentations I am making in front of people at the hospital where I work.

(2)  New therapy groups I am doing with people.

Why are these particular tasks causing me anxiety?

(1) Because they feel new (once I’m practiced at them, I’m not anxious any more) and

(2) They feel important to me.  They matter to me.

The chance for failure — when things feel new AND they are important — that causes my anxiety to go up.

Makes sense, huh?

Thank goodness, for how my brain is working right now!

It helps me have faith in my own process, as I learn and grow this year.

Thanks for reading, today.

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Day 112: Fortune telling, catastrophizing, and relief

Two days ago, I speculated here, with some anxiety, about how work was going to be for me today.  I assumed that I would see lots of  unfamiliar people — from the press and from law enforcement —  at the hospital where I work.

I assumed that this experience would be disruptive and difficult.

I was wrong.  My workplace looked and seemed very much as usual.

So,  dear readers, guess what?  Your faithful blogger  has now been caught in a very common cognitive distortion — the distortion of fortune telling. To wit:

Fortune telling.

We believe we know what the future holds, as if we have psychic powers. We make negative predictions, feeling convinced these are unavoidable facts.  Examples of fortune telling: “I am going to fail,” “This situation will never change.”

When I predicted that returning to work might feel like “Trauma Central” in Saturday’s post, I was engaging in another common cognitive distortion — catastrophizing:


This is a particularly extreme and painful form of fortune telling, where we project a situation into a disaster or the worst-case scenario. You might think catastrophizing helps you prepare and protect yourself, but it usually causes needless anxiety and worry.

I’m so glad I was wrong.

Will I learn from this?  Will I stop  fortune telling? Will I stop imagining the worst case scenario?

Yes and no.

I will learn from this, for sure.  However, based on my past experience, I assume that I will attempt to predict the future again, as a way to prepare myself.

Although, who knows?

I will keep you posted.

Thanks for reading, as always.

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Day 111: Here and now? It’s safer than you fear.

That may seem like a really strange title for today’s blog post.

Especially since I’m writing this in Boston, less than a week after the Marathon bombings, which created wide-spread (and completely understandable) beliefs of “we’re not as safe as we thought.”  (At least that happened here, in the U.S.)

Especially since I’m writing this approximately 36 hours after “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19” (as the media is now referring to him) was captured, hiding out in a boat, in Watertown, MA.  According to Google maps, he was hiding right behind the Arsenal Mall, where I’ve shopped for the last 30 years, a block away from places I frequently walk, and less than 2 and a half miles away from where this writer currently lives.

Okay, I want to ask myself  (and you) a question right now.  Why am I starting with time and place, in this post?  Why did I write those previous paragraphs, so specifically, about where and when?

Anxiety can heighten a sense of time and place.

I  state the place and time when I’m anxious, as a way to get a sense of how safe I am. It’s like I’m monitoring the environment and asking this: how close am I to  danger (by location and by time)?

I see that heightened anxiety, now, in people all around me.

I see that heightened anxiety in the people who are trying to make meaning of this new reality: My World After the Boston Bombings.

I see and hear people telling their stories, now, with those kinds of details — focusing on location and time. Details like these:  I live(d) in Boston, during this time.  Family members live(d) in Boston, during this time . Boston is/was familiar to me, during this time.

The punchline, that I hear in these stories, is this: Danger is closer than I thought.

Okay, I’m going to turn to the personal, now.

My Year of Living (What Seems to Be More) Dangerously.

I’ve been noticing, lately, that as I do this daily blog — The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally — I typically write in that state of heightened anxiety. That is, in many sentences I write (including many sentences in this blog post!), I state the place and time.  And I’ve been doing that all year.

That’s because I’m more anxious this year.

Why? Well,  I’m doing two new things:  (1) blogging and (2) working at a relatively new job for me. And the new, as we know, can make us more anxious.

However,  I’ve been remaining  anxious, even as I get more familiar with blogging and my job.

I don’t think I need to explain why blogging —  writing and sending personal information out into the world — might cause me some anxiety.   (Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Writers, Fellow Bloggers  —  you  probably have some understanding of this.)

But why does the work continue to make me so anxious?

Here’s why:  This year, I am doing work I love in a location that triggers old, anxiety-provoking memories in me. For the first time in my long  life, I am working at a hospital, and I  had some anxiety-provoking experiences  in the hospital, when I was a kid.

So, the hospital where I am now working, which is — rationally —   a very safe place for me, can FEEL more dangerous that it really is. Because I have so many memories from when I was a child — memories that color the way I see things in the present, that intensify my vision and my hearing as I walk around my now-safe hospital — as a result, I  can feel less safe than I really am.

How have I been dealing with that, this year?

My own process of helping myself feel safer.

I have been reminding myself — in the Here and Now — of the safer reality.

Whenever I can, each day I walk into work, I enter through the hospital’s main entrance. Then, I walk the 5 minutes to my office, looking around, taking in the sights and sounds, and reminding myself — with my internal thoughts and with the evidence of my eyes and ears — of all these things:

You are not a child now.  You are not a patient here.  You are an adult now.  You are on staff here.

You are in control, now.  You are not stuck here.  You can choose to leave, at any time.

Scary, awful things happened to you, but that was a long time ago (although it can feel like yesterday, sometimes).  

These things happened to you around the corner from here.  And this place may look, sound, and feels like that place.  But that was then, and this is now.  That was there, and this is here.

It’s different.

It may feel close to you,  in time and space.  But it’s further away than it feels.

There’s  distance between danger and you, Ann.

And those questions about who you can trust?  The people who work here may remind you of  some people who did scary things, but they are not the same people.

Those people who hurt you — whether it was by ignorance, fear,  or another one of their own limitations — those people can’t hurt you, right now.

It’s safer than you fear.

Those are the things I say to myself, as I walk through the hospital.

And here are some additional things I’ve been saying to myself, lately, as I walk outside the hospital:

Those people out there in the world, right now, who deliberately hurt others?  You may not understand them.  They may seem bigger and more powerful than other people. But they are the same size as other people.  

And there are others, in your life, who can help you stay safe. 

You are not alone.

It’s safer than you fear.

What I see in others, now

This week,  in Boston, I see people, all around me, doing things that remind me of my own personal process —   trying to figure out how safe they are.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, it’s the PROXIMITY of danger that can make us feel less safe.   We feel less safe when something  happens — something terrible, something violent, something dangerous, something that shatters our sense of safety — closer than we expected.

And I see others, all around me, already, doing whatever they can to start the healing process.

I saw people in Watertown, MA, coming out of their houses immediately after the lock-down was lifted, cheering the law enforcement people leaving their neighborhoods.

As I walked around yesterday, I witnessed other people walking. I wondered if they were doing the same thing I was doing — experiencing the beauty that is erupting everywhere around us, in the neighborhood of recent, violent danger:











And last night, I deliberately returned to my favorite diner (which — as I wrote about yesterday — appeared in almost every TV image during the capture of the suspect).

I went to that diner with people I adore.



That’s Janet and Ray, whom I’ve known for about 30 years (the same amount of time I’ve known the Arsenal Mall, whatever the hell that means).

I was healing myself, by going back to the Deluxe Town Diner, in Watertown, MA., last night, with Janet and Ray.  I was connecting back with many old, safe memories of that place. With people I’ve known and trusted for a long time.

Janet, Ray, and I were integrating the new, awful information with the old,  as we spoke about the Proximity of Danger. We talked about how the capture took place so close to where we were — as we ate, laughed, and reconnected.

These are attempts to heal.  To figure out ways to feel safe enough to move forward .

That is what I see, every day, in the group and individual therapy work I do.  Whenever I witness people doing that — healing themselves, with the support of others — it moves me, beyond words.

It may be beyond words, but I do try to put that into words, in writing and in speech — here and elsewhere.

Here’s a phrase that came to me, many years ago, when I first starting doing the work I do:

All healing is mutual.

In other words, as we witness other people heal, we heal, also.

That is what I see and hear, all around me.

Thanks so much for reading, here and now.

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