Saturday, July 2, 2011

because I can't wait till monday

My oldest and dearest childhood friend is coming to visit next week. She will stay with us with her family for the first time. Her kids and husband have never been to California… Ahhh the pressure of properly representing a whole state … I who am just borderline proper on my best day… with a house that barely fits us and our junk, most of the time… after she treated us like royalty when we visited her… ahhhh the pressure, the pressure, Cinde-fucking-rella!

Having put husband, daughter and dog on notice, I have been furiously delegating (fine, barking out) household tasks whilst keeping an eye on the calendar. For once, they have been impeccably well-behaved and compliant, yelling back at me only occasionally, though totally oblivious to the time sensitive nature of the undertaking (Me, hands on hips: “I've been telling you to fix the screw on the toilet for the last two weeks. The seat is still wobbly!” Husband watching TV, feet up, eating popcorn: “Oh, you mean now?”).

But since a large portion of said junk is mine, all my free time of late has been begrudgingly (10 minutes of work/30 minutes of reading other people's blogs and posting unwarranted comments) dedicated to a massive amount of tidying up, cleaning, and rearranging piles of shit that I should have dealt with years ago. Like the large mounds in the corner of my office composed mainly of my graduate research, studies, books, papers, handouts, notes, and apparently every conceivable scrap of paper I ever wrote anything on … since the day of enrollment.

To plow efficiently through the stacks, I had to constantly remind myself that the only thing I was allowed to do was to ask: “Where does this go? Trash, recycling, donation, or scanner?” Because nothing stops the momentum like a trip down memory lane. But then I found this. And I stopped plowing.

I distinctly remember the day this was handed to us at the very beginning of the first lecture in a Family Systems Therapy class. The blank look in our eyes when we realized she wasn’t passing out our syllabi. The incredulous one once we read it. Then the unanimous sigh of concurrence. The instructor was a humanistic therapist, much like the stereotypical touchy-feely ones in the movies who answer “and how do you feel about that?” to any and all questions, but there was more to her: something about her that inspired confidence, a depth, that belied her hippie clothing and demeanor. Plus she looked you deep in the eyes till you had no choice but to blurt out whatever you were withholding. Once I resisted the initial cracking-up every few seconds, I actually started digging her unorthodox* teaching methods. And didn’t crack up at all on the last day of class which was ended -- wait for it-- with a candle being passed from student to student. Never in a million years would I have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own two eyes: the personal (and frankly inappropriate) things that were said by all as each student looked at the flickering light and disclosed, me included. I blame her for my over-disclosing tendency, that’s for sure (like I wasn’t socially inept enough without this bonus affliction, thanks a lot!).

Since that class, I've strayed considerably from mainstream psychology to the more data-driven, logical, and colder confines of behavioral psychology. But Bonnie, wherever you are, this still resonates with me.

*Relatively unorthodox I would say: In retrospect, and considering the topic of the course, the format of the class was a very smart way to manufacture a sense of intimacy, essentially treating a group of strangers as a family unit and turning them eventually into a cohesive group, aware of their interpersonal dynamics and mindful of each other’s feelings and reality.


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