Posts Tagged With: Children’s Hospital

Day 1656: Holding on

I’m holding on to many things as we pack up to move, including

  • my sense of humor,
  • things I find valuable,
  • my job,
  • creatures I love,
  • my thoughts,
  • my feelings,
  • my sanity, and
  • my iPhone, so I can be put on hold and also take pictures of my holdings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Before I started writing today’s blog post, I got a little ferklempt at the end of this excerpt from last night’s Jimmy Kimmel Show (which is holding on here at YouTube):

 

As always, I’m holding on to gratitude for all those who helped me create today’s post and — of course! — for you, who keep me holding on.

 

 

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Day 737: Home

Today, I’m returning to Boston Children’s Hospital,* where I spent many days and nights away from home, between the ages of 8 and 27.

People’s feelings and thoughts about home are shaped by many things. My experience of home was highlighted and shadowed by many experiences at a place that was NOT home for me — the hospital.

Here are my in-the-moment associations with “home”:

  • Home is where the heart is (something my late mother used to say).
  • I sometimes have a lot of feelings — including fear, sadness,  and anxiety — when I have to leave home. These feelings can be out-of-proportion to the current situation and — I believe — influenced by my experiences of home and the hospital, when I was a little kid.
  • Between the ages of 8 and 13, being away from home at the hospital was particularly difficult for me, because I had to undergo many scary procedures and surgeries, and — in the 1960’s — Children’s Hospital did not allow parents to stay with their children outside of regular visiting hours.
  • When I would arrive at the hospital, in the 1960’s, for yet another stay, I would immediately make myself feel more at home by spending hours on the pay phone, talking to my friends, feeding the phone with a pile of quarters (supplied by my parents).
  • Because of my many experiences at the hospital — dealing with a range of different nurses, doctors, and other big people — I am very skilled, to this day, at homing in on who is kind, empathic, and trustworthy and who is not.
  • Home = safety, wherever we can find it.

I love that I’m home, as I’m writing this blog post today.

Here are some photos of home:

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A penny for your thoughts about this post, so far?

Here’s one of my favorite “home” songs:

Pat Metheny‘s music (including “Letter from Home” found here on YouTube) has made hospitals feel more like home to me, many times.

When I was home with my family in the 1960’s, Burt Bacharach brought many songs into the home, including this one:

“A House is Not a Home” is making a home here, on YouTube.

What’s your favorite “Home” song?

While I may have some feelings of anxiety and sadness right now, as I prepare to leave home for Children’s Hospital,* it helps to tell myself this:

I am no longer a child. I am an adult now, with control, power, resources, supports, and skills I did not have back in the days when Children’s Hospital was my home-away-from-home.

In my usual free-associative way, I am now thinking about the word “homework” and how — as a psychotherapist — I like to give people homework.  Here are some of my associations with “homework” as I’m writing this at home:

  • When I give my patients/clients homework and they don’t do it, I tell them, “That wasn’t the right homework” and we try something else.
  • When I was in therapy decades ago, working on difficult memories from my hospitalizations, I came up with a particularly helpful homework assignment for myself: to draw a map of the 5th Floor of the Fegan Building of Boston Children’s Hospital, and to illustrate — with pictures and words —  vivid experiences that happened to me there, in many rooms and locations on that floor.  One thing I drew on that map of the Cardiology Unit at Children’s Hospital from the 1960’s: the nurses’ station, where I spent a lot of time, talking to as many kind adults as I could find there. Another thing I remember drawing on that map, which helped so much in my personal healing: the pay phone with a pile of quarters, located in the hallway off the elevator between the regular hospital rooms and the Intensive Care Unit, where children, including me, recovered from surgery.

In my free-associating style, writing that previous paragraph inspires me to share this movie clip with you, now:

(“E.T. phone home” clip is here, on YouTube.)

I may have felt like an alien, at times in my life, but it always helps me to phone home. Every morning, that’s what I do, here on WordPress.

Thanks to all who do their best to make homes in the world, including you, of course.


* This morning, I’m going back to Children’s Hospital for an outpatient appointment with a new cardiologist. I should be home, soon.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

Day 523: A Day in My Life

Woke up, got out of bed,

Saw a cat there at the head,

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Found my way downstairs, and had a bite,

Looking up, I thought I might be late.

Found my coat but not a hat,

Made my car in seconds flat.

Found my way up there and saw these things:

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Somebody spoke …

When Death Comes – A Poem by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

And I went into a dream.

Thanks to the Beatles, to Mary Oliver, to the Longwood Medical Area of Boston (including Children’s Hospital, where I spent many days in my life), to my workplace, and to all the participants at the Northeast Society for Group Psychotherapy’s yearly 3-day conference in Boston (for which I arrived five hours early, yesterday). Many thanks to you, especially,  for glancing and observing, on this day in your life.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Day 323: Grieving old losses

After an initial therapy session, I need to write a treatment formulation. This includes  a brief description of the person seeking therapy  and my best guess at what might help.

When I write a formulation, I tend to include certain therapeutic themes.

One of them is this:

Grieving old losses.

I do believe that most people have losses, from the past, that could be attended to, in a new way.

I know that I do.

I know that I still am grieving the loss of both my parents.  That is a work in progress.

I am especially aware of losses, where the grieving has barely begun.

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This week, as I prepare for the 50th anniversary of November 22, 1963, I am becoming aware of a loss I have not yet grieved.

The loss of President John F. Kennedy.

As I have blogged about, several times this year (and especially lately), I was 10 years old when President Kennedy was killed.

However, I wasn’t awake, during that time.  I was undergoing my first heart surgery, for the implantation of my first cardiac pacemaker.

So I’ve always felt different, that way.  When people of my generation discuss where they were when JFK was killed, my story is …. weird, I guess.

This is the way I found out that President Kennedy was dead:

They had gotten me out of bed, days after my surgery, and somebody was taking me around in a wheelchair, down the corridor of the Children’s Hospital ward.  As we passed by each patient room, I saw the TVs, mounted up high,  on the wall.

On each TV, I saw the same image.  The same image, over and over again, as somebody wheeled me by.

A coffin.

I had never seen anything like that before, on TV.  And it was on every TV.

Days before, I had asked a question, twice, and received a world-shifting answer.  The question had been, “What’s that?” when I saw a large pacemaker, implanted under my skin.

When I saw the coffin, I MUST have been afraid to ask that same question.

I don’t remember the fear. But I do remember asking the question.

“What’s that?”

And that’s when I found out that my beloved president, John F. Kennedy, had been shot.

Killed.  Murdered.

By whom?

By a man named Lee Harvey Oswald.

I couldn’t take in that unfamiliar name, I’m sure.

Why did he kill the President?

Nobody knew. And he was dead, too. He had been killed, by another stranger.

How was all this possible?

HOW WAS ANY OF IT POSSIBLE?

I couldn’t answer that.  I was only 10.

I wonder if anybody, awake during that time, could answer that.

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This week, as Friday — the 50th anniversary of 11/22/63  — approaches, I have resolved to grieve old losses, as well as I can.

I am taking Friday off from work.  I have committed to be especially kind to myself, that day.

One way to be kind to myself is this: To remember that I am not alone in my grief.  Even though my experience of that loss was very different, I share the trauma of that loss with millions of people.

I am not alone.

Also, since I was 10, I’ve avoided details about what happened during that time.

I resolve to open up to the details, now.  And to turn away, if I choose.

And more importantly, I resolve to open up to the grief of that loss, of the president we loved.

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I think I’m ready for that, now.

Thanks to picsofwisdom.com (for the image of JFK), to those who are grieving losses everywhere, and to you — especially — for visiting today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

Day 316: Letting Go of Anger

I really had no clue what I was going to write about today.

Actually, that’s not true. As usual, I had too many clues and was having more trouble, than usual, deciding what to choose.

Then I read this wonderful post, called “They Could Not Forget,” by Louise Gallagher. At the end, she writes:

The war is over. In loving memory of my father and those who fought beside him, I let go of anger. It is time for me to make peace.

Louise’s post gave me lots of gifts, including the title of this one.

So, what do I want to write today, about Letting Go of Anger?

Here are my beliefs/observations about anger, at this point in my life:

  1. Anger is a human feeling, just like joy, sadness, and fear.
  2. Anger is a reaction to not getting needs met, including the need to feel respected and valuable.
  3. As with any other feeling, it’s helpful to let anger flow through you — without squelching it, trying to extend it, re-directing it to an inappropriate target, or otherwise screwing it up.
  4. Most people don’t have good role models for experiencing or expressing anger, so we often screw it up.
  5. In my culture, anger is more accepted in men than it is in women.
  6. Personally, when I was a kid, I had some experiences that would make ANYBODY angry; however, I didn’t express that anger.
  7. There are many, many reasons why I didn’t express anger back then. Maybe there wasn’t enough room for my anger. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe I and other people around me could not have borne it.
  8. I don’t know all the reasons why I didn’t express anger when I was a kid.  And I don’t need to know.  I can do my best, in the moment, to let go of anger, now.  Like Louise.

I love lists. Does it show?

So my commitment to myself — and to any others bearing witness — is this:

I will do my best to let go of anger. I will not expect perfection in that, or in anything else.

I need one more thing, before I publish this.

I love images. Does it show?

First, I will check to see if any recent photos of mine will fit the bill.

Okay!  I took this photo yesterday, revisiting the same place I pictured in my blog two days ago (here).

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That’s the place I was, when I was a kid, where I felt anger and fear.

Re-visiting there, taking photos, lingering,  breathing nearby, writing about it, showing this to you — all those things are helping me let go of those old feelings.

I am honoring my commitment.

Thanks to Louise Gallagher, Children’s Hospitals everywhere, people doing their best with anger, witnesses to healing, and to you — of course! — for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

Day 314: Things NOT to fear (geography)

Things not to fear, on a Sunday morning:

1.  Lack of money will destroy my life.

Honestly, that is so unlikely, at this point in my life.

However, there have been times I’ve been fearful of this.   In fact, somebody would have provided enough — at those times —  for me to survive and go on.

I should have known that, before. I know it now.

2.  Geography.

Geography was my least favorite subject, in school.   Here’s a story about that: When I was in 6th grade, I was procrastinating studying for a test about European capitals. (Note: I still procrastinate doing things I don’t like.) I tried to learn everything in the recess period before, with a couple of classmates. When I was having trouble remembering the capital of Belgium, somebody suggested this solution, “It’s Brussels, so think of brussels sprouts.”  Later, I noticed the teacher and classmates laughing, when they saw what I had written on the test: “The capital of Belgium is Brocolli.”*

Even though I still get disoriented by unfamiliar geography, I love to travel.  I’ve been to Brussels, very briefly, and would love to return. Here’s a beautiful photo of Brussels, thanks to Google Images (and Girl’s guide to Brussels):

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I could make a list of other places I want to visit, but that would take too long.

Another way geography has scared me? I have avoided geographical locations associated with past pain and suffering.  As I described earlier this year, it can help to return to those, when you’re ready. When you choose.

Last week, I chose to stop and linger, taking in a scary location from my long-ago past:

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That’s not so bad, now.  Nothing to fear, really.

Okay!

Thanks to my 6th grade classmates and teacher, the country of Belgium, places familiar and new, green vegetables everywhere,  people who support others in any way,  and to you — of course! — for visiting today.

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* A few more thoughts about that:

  1. I thought it was funny, too.
  2. I had never seen a brussels sprout, at that point in my life.
  3. I still misspell “broccoli,” most of the time.
  4. I have never, ever forgotten the capital of Belgium since.
Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Day 256: Worst nightmares (Friday the 13th)

Today is Friday the 13th.

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Eeeeeeeeeek!!!!!

So it’s time for …..

Random Thoughts about Worst Nightmares

Eeeeeeeeeeekk!!!!!!

When I woke up this morning, I felt cold.

Here’s the data on the recent weather in these parts: the temperature was in the 70’s on Monday, the 80’s on Tuesday, the 90’s on Wednesday, the 80’s yesterday, and (let me check) it’s going to be in the 70’s today.

When I’m in a therapy session — individual or group — people often hesitate to name their worst nightmares. They express a fear that if they share those, they will upset or alienate other people in the room. Often, when people describe an old nightmare, it’s part of the process of letting go of that.

When somebody is feeling bad, often a helpful question is: “What’s your worst nightmare right now?” (Also known as, “What’s the worst that could happen?”) When people allow themselves to express their worst fear, they often realize that dreaded future occurrence is unlikely. And, even if the worst fear is a distinct possibility, people usually realize they have survived worse.

In a previous blog post, I described a worst nightmare I used to have. In that recurring dream, I’d be trying to call somebody on the phone. Because of problems with my vision (and other obstacles), I could not reach the person by phone, no matter how I tried.

Here’s a nightmare I’ve only had once.

When I was a little girl, I had to have several surgeries, to implant cardiac pacemakers .

Before this particular surgery, my father, the nurses, and I had prepared a joke for the surgeons. It must have been the fall or early winter, because this was the joke: The nurses and I had put a sign on my body that said, “Do Not Open Until Christmas.”

The surgeon, in a very surgeon-like way, said, “Very funny,” when he saw the sign, and took it off my body.

Then, as usual, the anesthesiologist put a mask on my face

Somebody said, “Count backwards from 100.”

And I started to count.

I looked up at the doctors, wearing their own masks, looking down at me.

As I was looking up at them, that image started to change.

It reminded me of getting closer and closer to a photo in a newspaper, or an image on a television set.

Sort of like this:

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It was more like a black-and-white image, though. And as I kept staring at it, the dots that made up that image got bigger and bigger.

Finally, I fell into one big, black dot.

And everything was black.

And I heard a voice. It wasn’t a nice voice. It was a cold, unfriendly voice.

It did not wish me well.

It said this:

That person you were before — the one that was joking with the doctors — is not real. This is the only thing that is real. And you will always come back to this.

Then, thank goodness, I woke up.

It was only a dream.

Sometimes, that’s the way a story ends.

Like here:

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And like here, today.

Thanks for being there, dear readers.

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

Day 161: Tales of Tigers

Tiger Tale # 1

When I was a little kid, my parents went away on a trip. They brought home, as a gift for me, a Steiff puppet, that looked a lot like this:

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I was apparently unfamiliar with the fine points of animal classification at that age, because I named it “Tiger,” despite the telltale lack of stripes on its fuzzy little body. Tiger became my favorite toy. I slept with Tiger and often carried him around with me. As we say in the psychology business, Tiger was a transitional — or comfort — object. Or, as one might say in any business, I loved Tiger very much.

One of my main memories of Tiger is — of course — a scary one (since those are one type of memory that tends to stick). My family and the family of my mother’s best friend were visiting New York City. I was carrying Tiger with me, and Richie — the son of my mother’s friend, who was a little younger than I — grabbed Tiger away from me, yelled, “I’m throwing this off the top of the Empire State Building,” and ran away. I remember being so scared and upset, in that moment, standing frozen and alone, both Tiger and Richie gone.

I can’t remember details about what happened next, except for vague memories of Richie catching some hell about that. And I know that Tiger was returned to me, because here he is:

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Two things you might note about Tiger today. (1) He is hangin’, these days, with his own transitional object and (2) the top of his head is particularly fuzzy. The latter is due to his needing corrective surgery years ago, after being placed on the top of a lamp, so he could listen to a little girl practice piano.

Tiger Tale # 2.

When I was 10 years old, and had my first major heart surgery at Children’s Hospital, I know I didn’t have my comfort object, Tiger, with me. People probably thought I might lose him. Or maybe there were other rules about that. I know there were rules, during those days, that prevented my parents from being with me there, outside of normal visiting hours. (Things have changed, quite a bit, regarding parents and children and hospitals, since 1963.)

My mother told me a story, later, about sitting at my bedside, soon after that surgery, during regular visiting hours. I had fallen asleep. Suddenly, I stiffened. As my mother described it, “You went stiff as a board. Then, you yelled, ‘I have a tiger in me! A tiger!!'”

My mother was freaked out and frightened by that, I know. Again, I don’t remember the details that followed.

That tale has always stuck with me. My assumptions about that — then and now — include these: I was in pain. I felt like violence had been done to me (and my world). I was probably scared and angry.

One thing I’m noticing now: Just like with my Steiff puppet, I used the word “tiger” not-exactly-correctly, to name something important to me.

As I’m revisiting this story today, I’m glad I didn’t yell out the name of another ferocious thing with fangs and claws — like Bear, Beast, or Monster. Instead, I used the name of something I already loved.

In a lot of ways, I’m still making sense of that moment.

For example, this is a book I’ve been reading lately:

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I bought this book, years ago, because of the title. Since then, it’s been recommended by several people, as an effective way to work with people dealing with PTSD symptoms. I’ve resisted reading it, until now. (Also, I CANNOT hold on to the first word in the title of that book. Whenever I mention it to somebody — a healer, or somebody who wants to heal — I can never remember the verb. In my mind, I struggle: “Taming the Tiger?” “Turning the Tiger?” “Stirring the Tiger?” And I look it up, every time, to discover that first word, anew.)

The time is here for me to look more closely at that tiger. And even wake it, in some way.

Something that helps me feel braver and more ready: I’ve always loved cats, of all kinds. Big ones. Little ones. Wild ones. Tame ones.

Including this tiger-striped one, who watches me as I write:

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Thanks to all, for reading today.

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

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