My Widgets are Disappearing

The temporary disappearance of my widgets last week (that’s what the stuff to the left of this post is called) is the least of my problems. The huge amount of time I used to have for writing about whatever pops into my head also seems to be disappearing — and I am not liking that one bit. Still, the weird way the widgets just sort of faded away last week while I was looking in the other direction made me think that maybe if I keep up this not very frequent posting schedule the whole thing — my entire blog, I mean — will fade, like one of those huge tapestries of people hunting and quaffing wine that’s been left hanging in the ancestral hall too long.

And then the next thing you know, I’ll have to stick the blog in a museum, and turn on a faint blue light for about two hours a day while people shuffle past and peer at the hunters and the dogs and marvel at how they look so lifelike, for something that happened such a long time ago. That, anyway, is what my archives feel like when I go back to look at them. No, truth be told, that’s what last week’s post feels like too.

In the interest of keeping at least today’s part of the whole damned thing from fading, I am writing to tell you the one thing of real interest that occurred to me this week, something that has nothing to do with widgets, tapestries or pressure cookers, but is an insight that’s actually sort of handy and so I want to give it to you, totally free of course.

It is this: say you are a woman (this works if you are of the other gender, but let’s just start there, shall we?), and you are feeling down, maybe even depressed and unhappy. And it doesn’t seem to be going away. Now here in northern California, your tool of choice for dealing with that might be to go to see a psychotherapist. I, myself, have tried that tool — in fact, for many years I went to talk to a very lovely woman, named Dr. B, twice a week to sort out my feelings of not being quite sure why I was not stunningly happy.

Dr. B did me some good. But she was also somewhat confusing to deal with. I spent a lot of time staring at her and wondering why she was not talking. Now, I am not a fool, and I do know that the whole idea is that I am supposed to do the talking, but it seemed extraordinary to imagine how anyone could sit there and listen to me talk and not want to interrupt me, tell me what they’d recently bought on sale, or had in the fridge to cook that night.

So, although, objectively, I was aware that Dr. B is a nice, lovely, caring woman, and that it was her job to keep quiet while I talked, I never really warmed to her. I’m pretty sure that’s because I never got over the feeling that people you like do not just sit there while you are telling them about your fear of failure without also sharing their fear of, say, large hairy spiders. Also, I knew that the fact that I did not really like her would become the subject of our therapy, because that is What You Do when you discover you have any kind of feeling about your therapist. And my suspicion was that I would then have to talk about why I did not like myself, because your silent therapist is, after all, just a stand-in for you. In the end, I just thought it would be better to save all that up for a novel, rather than spend a lot of money per hour to talk about it.

Despite my reluctance to tell Dr. B to her face that she was not on my list of favorite friends, I learned many useful skills from her. Take, for example, my then-default position on humanity — that if you cannot figure out what people think about you, it is likely that they despise you. Dr. B managed to show me, without saying more than ten words over the course of quite a few years, that it is probably better to look at what people DO if you wish to figure out what they think. (Isn’t that great advice?) Also, I learned to take a moment before I allowed myself to think the reason a loved one was doing something I didn’t like was because they hated me and so did this thing on purpose. Generally, all it takes is a moment to shake off that not very helpful impulse.

The trouble with psychotherapy (besides that no talking problem), though, is that it is really expensive. Every time we drive by Dr. B’s house (she lives in our neighborhood, which also gave me some issues to discuss at our sessions), we talk about how her beautiful garden is actually MY beautiful garden, since I paid for it.

Now, are you wondering where this is heading? I have arrived. After finishing up being treated for breast cancer, and feeling a bit of a shell of my usual self, which is to say, feeling tired, down, and very out of shape, I had a bout of inspiration (on a day when I had had three lattes and a bar of dark chocolate) and signed up for an eight week session at Emerson Sport Training and Fitness. I kid you not. I will not tell you how, five years ago, no five months ago, I would have thought this one of the stupider, more self-absorbed things a woman could do. That is because I was spectacularly wrong to think that.

Having put myself in the hands of Carin, the personal trainer for the last month, I am here to tell you that the whole thing is just really great. She watches me lovingly and approvingly, explains to me patiently where my abdominal muscles are and then shows me how to get them working again, and has already told me all about her love of dogs, her upcoming trip to Peru, and her past as a competitive cyclist. In the many, many years of knowing Dr. B I knew the following facts about her beyond her address and telephone number and professional credentials: that she has two daughters, a husband and likes the same shade of green I do — that is, a sort of dark olive-y green. (I know that because we own the exact same shawl, a fact I chose not to discuss at our sessions because I feared it would lead to a long discussion of whether I wished to be her, which would lead to the garden and the fact that I didn’t wish to be her, I just wished to have her garden–I mean my garden–for myself.)  With Carin, in the blink of an eye, not only have I acquired tons of interesting information about her dogs, cycling and South America, but I’ve also lost several inches and all residual feelings of despair. I am in a good mood a lot. Also, Carin is half the price of Dr. B.  I should repeat that — it is a LOT CHEAPER to see a personal trainer than a psychotherapist.

What is true, of course, is that the two are not equivalent. It’s just that at this point, what’s needed is not the talking cure, but the strength training cure. And that brings me to my inspiration, the one I’m giving you for free, because I’m betting you know this already too — the trick to solving many problems is simply laying your hands on the right tool. Take the widget disappearance problem. That turned out to be a matter of unchecking a box I’d mistakenly checked that hid everything from view. To solve that, I just needed the five minutes of clarity and calm that only a nice cup of tea can give you. The post-breast cancer ennui? Clearly, the answer is three times a week, sixty minute sessions with a nice woman toting a clipboard that shows your progress, a little bit every day, in the direction of rude, good health. Next up? The disappearing time issue. I’m thinking the right tool for that problem might be to get up a little earlier. Being in rude good health as I currently am, I’m going to guess that won’t be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

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23 thoughts on “My Widgets are Disappearing

  1. my widgets disappeared yesterday. I nearly lost my mind. I like what you say about finding the right tool . I’ve been suffering from a lack of time myself and it seems like the more I try to FIND time, the less there is…if that makes sense? It’s disheartening and I don’t think I can get up any earlier than I already do…but then again, maybe I can. Glad you found Carin!

  2. Your journey from Dr. B to Carin to the insight about the “right tool” sounds most sensible, BL. I intend to make use of this bit of wisdom you’ve shared. Oh, and that part about Dr. B’s garden being paid for by you–hilarious!

  3. You too LK darling. And a bar of very dark chocolate from that nice shop on College, whose name I cannot remember, but whose location is near Diesel Books, sounds like it is in order.

    SS — I am grateful that you would follow me on this terribly meandering, not very well connected journey into the somewhat cluttered place that is my brain. You are a dear.

    Courtney–It is disconcerting — to say the least — when things just disappear, especially things you thought were there to stay. As for the disappearing time, I think my idea of getting up a little earlier is actually very lame, and I am still casting about for the ideal tool to apply to that to come up with what I need. I am thinking possibly a little analysis and excision of time-wasters might be more in order, but am not certain.

  4. Bittersweet Cafe!

    And such brilliance, BL. I am inspired. I have much more to say on this topic of psychotherapy & personal trainer, but must dash.

  5. I am SO pleased to hear that you are in rude good health! That’s wonderful news. While I don’t have a personal trainer, I have discovered, only in the last two weeks, that exercise is a very good antidote for depression. I have been waiting for someone to hand me time in order to do it, and then the light bulb hit me – no-one’s going to GIVE you time, you have to TAKE it. So, like you plan to, I have been waking up earlier, leaving my lovely husband to deal with my dear children, and going out into the beautiful spring morning for my walk/jog. I LOVE it! And then I feel far less guilty if sometime in the day I slip myself some pieces of dark chocolate – it’s win-win. No depression! Happy Charlotte! Exercise! And Chocolate!

  6. I love your widget/tapestry analogy, BL. And I truly believe the best thing you can do for yourself, in a completely selfish sense, is to work up a good sweat. Endorphins feel better than a manicure/pedicure any day. So I am glad you have found an excellent source of endorphins, plus rude good health.

  7. Hi bloglily,

    Enjoyed your writing on this a lot… The tapestry image, too, and the laconic therapist.

    The talking cure and physical exercise are not so far apart in their application… I’ve read of studies showing that exercise has had an enduringly positive effect on people with depression, and I’ve experienced some of those benefits in my own life.

    Regards

  8. What a truly wonderful post! I really would suspect that you and I are the same person, dear BL, except you are lovelier and wiser. The right tool at the right time is perfect advice and has just saved me thousands of pounds in therapy (where I also find it tricky to talk to someone who is not talking back). Now I’ve just got to somehow find the inclination to do some exercise….

  9. I live in a country where going to a psychotherapist is not the usual thing to do, but it is also a country where just about everyone does an excessive amount of sport and everywhere people are jogging, myself included. Now I know why.
    An excellent post from you Bloglily.

  10. Yes, great post. Good luck with your training. Exercise is the best “drug.” Mine is martial arts, 20+ years, as well as hiking, biking, occasional running. One of these cold, northeastern winters I may sign up for strength training in a nice, warm gym, but this time of year, after being cooped up for months, I just want to be outside. We do practice aikido inside, but in warm weather the dojo is open to the outdoors, and faces a hill of daffodils.

  11. Seems like the verdict is in– exercise. I’ve found, by accident, that the secret is to find some kind of huffing and puffing (that’s important) routine that does not bore you and is not difficult to get to, (if you have lots of other daily obligations–job, family). That usually means being able to walk out of one’s house to walk or jog (which can be slower than walking, and intermitent, but better, unless you can walk really fast); or hopping on an indoor bike or tread and watching some exciting old TV series on DVD. A competitive sport that you really love can help overcome the resistance of driving to get there. Maybe there’s something else.
    Cluttered minds are often essential for good writing. Mess up your room, too.
    Sounds like you are on a good path.

  12. Three cheers for BL and sports.

    There is a free alternative to a non-talking therapist: a priest. I am sure I am no more averse to Christian dogma than to Freudian dogma, and the former comes with absolution, and for free.

    The best would probably be a priest who suggests (and supervises) physical effort as a way to redemption, rides to Peru with his dogs, does some gardening and has a psychology degree. For free.

    PS: do not worry about writing only weekly. It is not the quantity that matters.

  13. That’s it Tai, Bittersweet!

    Mandarine, This proposal made me laugh. I’d just been emailing the beautiful former nun at our church who supervises the choir about having lunch and was thinking to myself, I do so like sitting with Colleen, when I saw your comment. Your vision is superb–I wonder you do not go into the business of helping people figure out truly inspired alternatives.

    Smokey–I’ve never thought about that before, the part about the cluttered mind. As for messing up my room, I do that all that time!

    Oh Ann, lucky you! The hill of daffodils, the people doing martial arts, that just sounds like heaven.

    Hey Eli, Thank you. *waves in Eli’s direction*

    Jane, do you live in a Scandanavian country by any chance? (Denmark?) My husband, whose grandparents are from Sweden, sounds just like you. And it’s true, doing something physical is so good for your outlook on life.

    My dear litlove, If we are the same person, does that mean I get to have a really great English accent instead of my ordinary American one?! I thought about you when I was thinking over Dr. B, and was wondering about your work and psychoanalytic theories in general and how much you venture into that territory. I am glad to hear about the saved pounds! (Don’t worry about exercising, you just have to call it something else, something you actually like to do like “walking.”)

    You know Fencer, I think the enduringly positive benefits of a physical life include not only a decrease in depression but might also make your daily life more fun, if you choose something to do you really love, as you have.

    Endorphins over the mani/pedi any old day, Ms. Box o’books!

    Dear Charlotte, you are right, you have to take that time because no one is going to give it to you. Your springtime walk/jogs sound beautiful. I’ll bet it’s lovely in Germany right now.

  14. You know another great economical substitute for a therapist: someone to come and clean your house. You wouldn’t believe it, but many marriages break or make on this one guardian angel.

    Glad you are out there getting someone explain where your abdominal muscles are. I misplaced mine a few years back. Do you think it’s worth the effort to reclaim them?

    All the best.

  15. I do indeed live in a Scandinavian country – Denmark. Today my son of 18 months woke up at 5.30 in the morning. My partner and I made coffee and sandwiches, we cycled to the beach just 2 km away and then we started the day watching the sunrise, drinking coffee, digging in the sand. Also an excellent way to keep depression at bay.
    Now it´s 10.30 AM and my son and my partner are sleeping…

  16. It is so good to hear that personal trainers are nice and can help locate abdominal muscles. I have always been afraid that trainers are perfect physical specimens and would sneer at my misplacing my abdominals–and that would make me feel even worse! But perhaps I should try this. It would help to feel I am making progress every day. By the way, I too, went the psychotherapy route once upon a time, and had the exact same reaction as you did. It just doesn’t seem right that they *never* tell you what they had for dinner last night or whether they prefer the oceans or the mountains…and mostly where they buy their shoes! Also, I too, didn’t really LIKE my therapist and never wanted to tell her so, because I don’t like to tell people those things. And I knew my not liking to tell people those things was going to be treated as though it were a Major Psychological Disorder. I shall try exercise…and lilalia’s wonderful suggestion to have someone come in and clean my house! I have learned a lot tonight. Thank you.

  17. Sandi, Not a sneer in sight. And believe me, a few might be in order. Dr. B didn’t sneer either, come to think of it, but you are right — the fact that she wore great shoes and we could never discuss them did not sit wellwith me. As for cleaning, I so completely agree. The duration of my marriage has been extended by at least ten years because of the fact that someone helps us keep our house clean and that someone is not me.

    Jane, I am moving to Denmark. That scene you describe sounds wonderful. When I was a child, my family lived in Germany for a number of years. In the summer, we rented a house in Denmark. Both times we did this were utterly magical. The cycling and the coffee, the sunrise and the sand all sound perfect!

    Dear Lilalia — YES on the housecleaning. If you can come up with the money, it is well worth it. As for the misplaced muscles, I am still trying to locate mine, so don’t know the answer to your question yet.

  18. If everyone knew all the tools available, we might not be such a nation of depressives. What works for one may not work for all, but sometimes I think just picking something up and flailing is better than sitting still. Writing is a sort of talking cure too, and I’m glad your words are no longer spent on Dr. B.

  19. one of my favorite tools against despair and wonder “whazzup with THAT?” is reading bloglily. This made me chuckle 6 times…I’d quote the lines to you, but last time i tried that, my comment disappeared (perhaps I just need 5 minutes of clarity?)
    –op

  20. I still love that your write like I imagine you talk. It is friendly and warm and nice.

    “……where have all the widgets gone? Long time passin. Where have all the widgets gone? Long time passin..”

    I too have begun working out again ( I am a certified pilates instructor but you would NEVER know it by looking at me… I am flab and muffin top abound) but really dig teaching my class. I am only managing to get to the gym once a week now, but it is that.

    Yes. I like the rent-a-friend idea. Yes. Last year I spent a lot of money on that. But yes, sitting by the pool, talking with friends and really trying to be in the moment is better.
    xx

  21. Endorphins from exercise are wonderful antidepressants! I got a dog and this forces me to get exercise. If I don’t walk her, she comes and puts her head on my knee and gazes soulfully at me, “Isn’t there something we are supposed to be doing right now????” And when I start putting on my walking shoes the excitement is uncontainable. So, I get my exercise and unconditional love and approval, all from one venue. I’m glad you are not so depressed any more. Never really been there, but I have several clients that are depressed, and I judge it must suck black hole like.

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