Sunday, April 25, 2010
Whether or not a day is filled with sunshine or the weather is dreary, whether it’s during the short, darker days of winter or the longer brighter days of summer, we can all find reasons to feel depressed or happy, engaged or wanting solitude.
I’ve never understood, though, why some people prefer not to acknowledge and/or celebrate birthdays or any special occasion but do, instead, whatever they can to avoid celebrating and discourage others from participating in celebrations for them. Such a choice no doubt reflects in part on whether they were taught to value and enjoy such days or were encouraged instead to discount them as being frivolous, paying homage only to Hallmark.
The reason for my desire and need to celebrate may seem obvious to some, but I believe I would feel the same way if I had not experienced all that I had experienced throughout my childhood.
For those of you who have read my memoir, FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS, you know that I grew up with a mother whose health was always precarious. Consequently, I remember having only 2 birthday parties prior to my Sweet Sixteen: one when I was about 3 years old (because I distinctly recall being awakened from an afternoon nap to get into a party dress before our relatives arrived) and another when I was 10 and some school friends were invited over for birthday cake. We sat in a semi-circle on folding chairs, all rather formal, not particularly child-friendly nor happy-making.
Yet, once I became a mother, it gave me immeasurable pleasure to plan and design elaborate birthday parties for each of our daughters. I suppose Freud would say that I tried to make up for all that I missed during my formative years ... but, in truth, I never resented my mother for not doing more. I knew that she did her best and never having known life to be otherwise, I’m not sure I missed what I didn’t have.
With the ability to do more for my girls, though, I made the choice to celebrate each of them on each of their birth-days.
Some of us are, of course, more resilient than others and DO manage to handle life’s inevitable curve balls with greater ease and equanimity. To the degree that we do, we are, of course, influenced by genetics – all that we’ve inherited – as well as our environment, and the individually acquired attitudes that we have chosen to adopt in order to best live our lives.
However, we don’t have to have a psychiatric disorder to feel up one day and down another. That’s life. Things happen. We are not robots and we are entitled to feel joyful or sad, as the situation warrants. So, if celebrating only makes a person feel sad, I guess that person will do whatever is necessary to avoid days that mark special occasions.
In our family, we celebrated several birthdays last month, not least of which was that of our grandson. This week we’ll be toasting our granddaughter. During May we’ll have our youngest daughter’s birthday, my nephew’s birthday and mine, and we’ll celebrate my husband’s birthday in June. Though I undoubtedly relate differently to the birthdays of others than I do to my own, each will be a reminder of time passing.
Yet, since the passing of time does not in and of itself depress me, I welcome birthdays and all occasions. My attitude toward aging, along with my acceptance of life’s challenges, colors such days for me in ways that I truly treasure.
I know how easy it is for some to fall into the trap of relating to the construct of TIME (which I devoted an entire blog to months ago) not with gleeful anticipation but with reluctance and a fear of getting older.
It’s a choice.
While it may not be possible for others, I, for one, heartily recommend celebrating. With the current level of unrest in the world, it seems only sensible to give ourselves reasons to celebrate, to find the energy and have the spirit to enjoy the wonders of existence, and to hope that all the insanity that surrounds us on any given day – most of which is out of our control – will not rob us of the choice to rejoice!
So, to all of you who have a birthday, anniversary, or any other reason to celebrate, I hope you will do so, realizing that though time is indeed passing, we who are here are lucky to be alive and to have reasons to celebrate!
Have a great week.
Posted by Linda Appleman Shapiro at 9:48 PM
Sunday, April 18, 2010
There's hardly a day that goes by when a patient doesn't need help in finding his or her voice to feel empowered. The fear of talking honestly and appropriately about what one hears, sees, and thinks is an on-going challenge.
Worse yet is to think of all the abused teens and adults who are unable to tell anyone of their experiences or children who are forbidden to reveal dysfunction in their family, whether it be emotional or physical abuse, or illness of any kind. They are told NOT TO TALK ABOUT anything which might bring shame to the family. Yet, such silence impedes their emotional development and leaves permanent scars.
On a far more global level, I was reminded today of that very need to find one’s voice as I watched the film, AGAINST THE TIDE, a documentary which one critic writes “bravely traces forgotten history and rattles the skeleton in a couple of famous men’s closets.” Specifically, that critic is referring to Rabbi Stephen Wise and President Franklin Roosevelt whom one actually sees in this film as doing little in the years when they could have done so much more to save European Jewry from the Nazis. Roosevelt – who was seen by many in the immigrant community as one of our great presidents, a man who helped to save this great nation of ours – was convinced by Rabbi Wise and others like him that it was not in his best political interest to rescue “those Jews.” Although that is something I regret to say I was not aware of before, the film makes it known that Roosevelt as well as some outspoken anti-semites in his cabinet did what they could to stall immigration, even when it was possible to save lives that could have still been saved. In those instances, men found their voices, but what came out of their mouths were bigoted, inflammatory, anti-semitic remarks which only the likes of Winston Churchill had the courage to defy.
In the film we learn about Peter Bergson, born Hillel Kook in 1915, in Lithuania. He and his family immigrated to Palestine in 1929. As a known activist, he was sent to Poland in '37 to help organize illegal immigration. When WWII broke out, he came to America and was neither intimidated nor silenced by anyone, although his dramatic appeal to the public embarrassed those who were fearful that WWII would be viewed as a Jewish invention, thereby stirring up anti-semitism here at home. Now, in retrospect, many view him to be one of the most successful, un-sung Jewish heroes who fought to raise awareness in America about the fate of the European Jews. He formed the group that came to be known as the Bergson Group, running full-page ads in newspapers reluctant to give the events of the Holocaust proper front page placement. The New York Times, for example, tucked news of mass murders of Polish Jews in the middle of the paper. One can only assume that the publisher, a practicing Jew, feared that the paper would be seen as being too Jewish, supporting what some would view as a "Jewish War." Bergson and his followers, however, held rallies, marched to Washington and was no doubt a thorn in the sides of comfortable and solidly assimilated Jews.
As for those who lived and died in the concentration camps of Europe and for all those in every country where genocide has occurred and is occurring today it is not often possible for those who are so victimized to have voices. They are silenced into submission and worse!
Therefore, those of us who are able to do so, must supply OUR voices when faced with crimes against humanity. We must not empower abusers or murderers be they governments or individuals by our silence, no matter the cause for which they claim to be fighting or the costumes they hide behind.
In the best of circumstances, what it means to find one’s voice is the importance of knowing how and when to be an advocate, how and when to identify what’s really important, what is evident to us, and what we feel is worthy of our concern. We must not deceive ourselves into believing that what we know to be true is not true. We owe it to ourselves to speak out. Doing so defines who we are and how we wish others to experience us.
I suppose had I said nothing after viewing this film today, I would be guilty of exactly what I am saying none of us can afford to do ... and that is to remain silent.
Posted by Linda Appleman Shapiro at 1:24 AM
Sunday, April 4, 2010
This is no news to any of you: These are critical times politically and economically and, as a result, nearly every aspect of our lives is affected.
In many instances decisions made are not in our control. If a business goes belly-up and you happen to be one of its employees, you’ve lost your job. If you work for a company that couldn’t afford to give bonuses this year, then money you were counting on to pay for certain necessities is not available to you. For others, if a boss decided that in order to remain in business jobs had to be cut along with salaries, and if you were lucky enough to still have your job you had to decide whether you were able to afford to live on the reduced salary being offered.
While most of us like to think that we’re resilient, too many working men and women are being challenged, put to tests that call into question their ability to make the best decision for themselves and/or their family.
That being said, however, many people are necessarily changing careers, creating new positions for themselves and fighting to survive, maintaining their dignity by being pro-active and creative in their thinking.
For those over 65 (the once customary age of retirement) who still wish to continue working, the challenge is even greater. As one such person in that group, I feel fortunate that I am self-employed:(1)as a psychotherapist with a sub-specialty in addictions treating individuals, couples and families (2)as an author and blogger (3)and as an oral historian and lecturer. This still means, however, that I am having to cut corners and make decisions that I would not have had to make in the past. But, along with many of my friends and colleagues, I am opting to think creatively and come up with solutions that will allow me to do the work I enjoy while not giving up or drastically changing my lifestyle.
Examples: Due to the difficulties imposed upon all of us by insurance companies, many physicians are leaving solo private practices, taking salaried positions or forming group practices. (There is power in numbers and they’re figuring that out!) A great many of my colleagues who are psychotherapists are no longer on any insurance panels. Their patients, for the most part, claim their fees as medical deductions at year’s end and others are being treated in clinics where some are still able to receive quality care.
I have chosen to offer some of my patients fees on a sliding scale to help accommodate their economic hardships. To meet a resulting monthly short fall myself, I’m planning ways to increase my practice.
Although I am – as many of you are – on FACEBOOK and LINKEDIN as ways to make myself visible to more people and to gain greater access to various possibilities, I am also in the process of designing a personal website which will enable others to know about my practice, to sign up for a free consultation and then be offered a fee they can afford. In addition to statements about how I work, testimonials from current patients will be available, as well as my bio, which will show anyone interested, my educational background, training, and degrees.
As the author of a memoir, FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS, which has received nothing but 5 star reviews on Amazon.com and named FINALIST in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and as a weekly blogger, named TOP BLOGGER in the Mental Health Field by WELLsphere, I will also be offering a direct link/subscription to my blog and my book and will, with luck, keep my book in continued circulation by offering an order form right on my website. I will then send copies out immediately upon request, making it easy to pay through a PAY PAL account and offering a discounted rate, as well.
I am telling you all this not merely to promote myself, but hopefully to give you the courage to think outside the box, to be creative about your own life choices so that you are able to manage what IS in your control.
It’s not easy and it’s not always possible, but I do think solutions are more probable if we wrap our minds around different ways of being in the world and, like children who are learning something new and inevitably make mistakes, we can learn from our mistakes, move on and succeed.
On this Easter Sunday – a day and time of “renewal” for Christians – and at the end of this week of Passover which celebrates an escape from slavery, I wish you all the courage and strength to escape from financial/personal bondage, to fulfill your potential and to believe in the power of your ability to help your dreams become reality.
Posted by Linda Appleman Shapiro at 12:13 AM
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