Target on a Train by Monica Dane

She walked along the street reflecting on her life; the blessings, the heart-aches and the hard lessons she learned along the way.  She was hopeful for her future and all of the things she still wanted to do and accomplish. She firmly believed she had the adequate tools to tackle anything with the help of God.

She heard some noises coming from the train station and decided to change her path and walk in that direction. Little did she know, it would change the course of her future and events. At that moment in time, it seemed like a good idea. She was drawn to the hustle and bustle around the station.  There were so many people there and the perfect place to people watch.  She sat down, a moment to breathe the fresh air and take it all in.  She was a well-educated, kind-hearted, beautiful woman. A beauty that radiated joy to all of those who encountered her. There was a quality about her that was real, authentic. A giving heart and caring nature. A warm feeling you would receive when you had a conversation with her.

She wasn’t sure if she was wanting to board the train and go somewhere, or if she just wanted to flirt with the possibility of where it might take her. She stood up and decided to walk along the path and take in more sights. She glanced at another train nearby that was sleek, polished, beautiful, seemingly perfect, attractive, and intriguing. It looked as if it was a fast train. She had no clue that trains like this even existed, but they do.

Not everything is as it appears to be. The next thing she remembers is stepping up on the big step and closing the train door behind her; not knowing that the fresh, clean air that she had been breathing would be her last for a while. She turned around and looked through the window that appeared clear from the outside of the train, but yet was dark and cloudy from inside looking out. Something in her told her she wanted this experience. It was exciting.

The train gradually started moving. What she thought would be a thrilling moment and a good idea at the time, was changing. She knew in her gut she had made a mistake, but she didn’t take the opportunity to get off the train right away. She told herself that if she could just get comfortable, that things would be better on this train. She found a place to sit next to the cloudy, gray window, and looked out. As the train would approach different streets, it would gradually slow down and stop. Could she get off the train now?  She saw people passing by, some strangers looking her way and the attention was nice. She saw friends laughing and having a good time, encouraging each other. Families gathered together.

As the train picked up speed, she was becoming a little sick, nauseous, nervous, anxious. She was starting to feel as if she couldn’t take in a full deep breath and was on the verge of hyper-ventilating. She felt closed off from the world around her. Isolated. The train began moving so fast and she wasn’t prepared for the speed of it. She saw glimpses of people, places, things: life passed her by. She no longer was full of joy, but consumed with regret and feelings that if she could change things on the train then it wouldn’t be so bad and she could get by.

However, this train had power and control over her. Trapped. No way out. Even if she could get off, she was too scared. She felt all alone and the train was picking up even more momentum.  At the current speed, she was sure it would crash and the ride would all be over; she wasn’t convinced that was a bad idea. Yet, she had no idea of how to make the train stop.  She was embarrassed that she even had willingly boarded this train.  She had tried to strategically plan how she could get off many times but wasn’t successful. One day, she did something different and she let go of controlling it and prayed. Cried out to God to help her and knew that she couldn’t do it alone. When she finally had enough courage and strength, she jumped (more like leaped) from the train. It was incredibly freeing, and immediately she felt so much relief. She ran and ran and ran until she couldn’t run anymore. She was limping, bruised and wounded but alive.

The dust is now settling. She’d never be quite the same person as she was before she boarded the train, but she has rediscovered parts of her she didn’t know existed.  A strength and courage within her that she never knew she possessed. She’s wiser. Even the conversations she has with friends, strangers, and family feel like divine appointments. What she needs is to take the baby steps in healing past hurts, pains, regrets. She feels safe; cautiously optimistic for her future.

She will never get back on a train like the one before. Ever.

Target on a Train by Monica Dane, Certified Life Coach. Monica Dane Coaching – monicadane.com

18, College and First Love – Oh My!

When you read the title of this blog, I hope you do so in the same sing-song manner as if you were watching “The Wizard Of Oz” and the gang is frightened while on the road to the Emerald City and singing “lions, tigers and bears, OH MY! lions, tigers and bears, OH MY!” but now say “18, College and First Love, OH MY!”

My purpose of writing this blog is that I often see loving and nurturing parents stunting their youth’s normal development in the area of dating and every summer, I worry about those graduates who will be headed off to college like sheep to a slaughter. The idea that parents are sheltering their children from experiencing the NORMAL developmental stages of attraction can be controversial because for every opinion there is a counter-opinion. Since this is my blog, I will share with you my opinion; throw it into the mix of others out there and the reader can decide for themselves what works for their own children.

I had been planning to write this blog all week and like many people, I was busy and just never got around to it and then poof! out came the headlines about a young woman getting married after “supervised courting” and receiving her first kiss as a married person. Now, I had no intention of piggy-backing these headlines with this blog but the timing works, I suppose.

Do I think it’s fabulous that a young couple got married in a way that works for them? Absolutely. As a counselor, even a Christian counselor, do I recommend a similar courtship for all young adults? Absolutely not. I don’t know the young couple (I am referring to the Duggar daughter and by the way, 19 kids is a lot in my opinion) so I can’t say whether it will work for them or not. What I do know is that I would be terrified to send my own young adult off into the world, especially college life, without knowing first hand that he or she knows how to handle all the emotional strings that come along with falling in love.

I believe that there are stages to normal development that must be experienced along the path as a tween becomes a teen and a teen becomes an adult. I do not agree with saving all the experiences for when the youth is a “magical” age of 16 years or 18 years old. I get very nervous when parents tell me that they will allow their teen to date at 16 years old and not a moment before. Let’s think about this…give the youth a car, car keys, a long-awaited love interest, no experience in setting boundaries in real life situations as opposed to hypothetical scenarios and that sounds like a good idea? Not to me. What does sound like a good idea to me is to parcel out small dosages of “dating” and “being in love” experiences as is right for the tween/teen and let each experience serve as an opportunity for parents and children to have honest conversations.

This year by 4th grade son said that he wanted to buy a Valentine’s Day gift for two girls at school. We talked about why he wanted to buy them each a gift, what it would mean to the girls and since the girls were friends would that cause conflict, etc. It was a wonderful discussion about friendships and boy/girl expectations. Eventually he decided that buying just one gift for a girl was a better idea (that was probably after we did a pre-purchase swing through Kohl’s to see just how much of his allowance he would have to shell out on these gifts). He and I talked about whether the girl’s parents would be ok with her receiving a Valentine’s Day gift as a 4th grader and I directed him to ask the girl beforehand and have her ask her parents. Once it was confirmed that she was allowed, he and I went back to Kohl’s with enough of his allowance saved up and he began the process of buying his first treasure for a girl; which is a normal desire that I want to foster in raising a gentleman.

The time at Kohl’s also served as a great learning opportunity because he was drawn to the flashiest, largest, gaudiest jewelry Kohl’s had to offer during the month of February. He said the girl liked “sparkle” so he was going for a lot of sparkle! But I explained she was a young girl who deserved something that was sweet and dainty, like her. He understood what I was saying and ultimately selected a very pretty little Cross.  He knew the girl was a Christian because since that was a quality that was important to him, he had on his own gained this knowledge at school one day. You should have seen the tender care in which he carried the little bag that held this precious possession he had selected and bought with his own money for a girl he thought was very special, in a 4th grade way. I believe all that to be really normal and healthy. Some other adults might disagree but there were so many amazing conversations that took place during this Valentine’s Day purchase that I am so glad my son, and us as his parents, didn’t miss out on them.

Each parent has to decide what is right for their family. That’s the bottom line. As a therapist and a mom, I really want to see young adults launch off to college-life away from parents watchful eyes already having had the experience of learning boundaries even while in love, having learned the art of balancing school work and a love interest, having learned what is an unhealthy relationship and how to leave it when necessary and on and on. Keeping our youth from dating at all until they are 16 years or 18 years old or only dating towards marriage (which is another topic for another blog, but I completely disagree with this philosophy) only delays the developmental stages that all youth must go through as it relates to healthy attraction to their peers. I would much rather a 12, 14, 16 year old act their age, than have an 18, 20 or 25 year old acting much younger than their chronological age because they were never allowed to develop normally.

What are your thoughts about preparing young adults for dating life?

Comfortably Numb

counseling

“Numb: Deprived of the power to feel…Emotionally unresponsive; indifferent”

Many people come into counseling because they feel that they need to make a big change in a relationship and are not sure which course of action they should take.  Often times individuals wonder if they are seeing their spouse/significant other correctly or have distorted vision and are about to make a huge permanent mistake by making radical adjustments in their relationship.

The number one thing I hear from folks who are having trouble with moving forward with a decision is that they don’t know if they can trust their feelings about what they need to do. The word “numb” often comes into the conversation. People wonder if they have become so comfortably numb to the pain of an unhappy relationship that they don’t feel confident in their own judgement anymore. Is the indifference they may feel towards a romantic partner really just self-preservation and when the numbness should wear off, they would be seeing the situation in a very different light? Few emotions are worse than regret so people work hard to avoid it and that’s ok.  On the other hand, few things are worse than living comfortably numb in a relationship that is clearly dead and will remain unresponsive to attempts to resuscitate it.

How does  a person know if they are numb to their “real” feelings for a relationship or really have come to the point of being done and caring has permanently left the building? It’s a tricky question and a colleague put it very well in that “some people confuse caring with being numb. Wrong. Numbness is when you can’t feel something you ordinarily would. Not caring is when you don’t feel something because you don’t care. ” I agree.

Caring is at the heart of whether to stay in a relationship, to dismantle the couplehood now or get an exit strategy in place that works for the circumstances. When we have stopped caring we have to wonder if we have gone numb but feelings are still there below the surface (like at the dentist when we are temporarily numb and can no longer feel) or if we have really arrived at the  point that “when it’s time to go, there it went” as my colleague put it.

As a counselor I always advocate that people not end relationships until they know that they know that they know it’s truly over and it can not be fixed. Sometimes coming to that place of surety is extremely difficult. If people find themselves simply unable to determine if they have gone numb or are really moved on in their hearts, I find a time of separation to be the number one most helpful tool to cut through the confusion. Whether it be a boyfriend/girlfriend or a spouse, a time of separation can be just the thing needed to determine the best next step. I have seen many people gain insight, clarity of mind and a clear purpose through a time of stepping away from the hyper-focus on the relationship and get a better perspective from a few steps back.  It never ceases to amaze me what we can see when are not looking at just one corner of a painting and step back enough to see the whole work of art.

If you are facing the confusion of numbness vs feelings of being done, I encourage you to not do anything permanent until taking a period of at least thirty (30) days away from the relationship. If you need longer to get some clarity, then take it, but start with thirty and see what you learn. You might see that there was numbness masking feelings that you will be able to find or you might have the confirmation that you need to move forward in a direction that is right for you and your future. Staying comfortably  numb in a relationship should not be an option though and a time of separation should be after all other actions to repair the relationship have been tried and been unfortunately unsuccessful.

Five Things I’ve Learned This Week – 04/10/13

Five Things I’ve Learned This Week or Was Reminded Of:

1) Being a Christian doesn’t make us immune to mental illness, depression, anxiety, fear, trauma or any of the other struggles that are possibilities in this world

2) New solutions breed new problems. Example? Technology. It’s great until it doesn’t work the way we want it to

3) Texas weather is absurd and makes me crazy sometimes. Why would it be 37 degrees in April? That’s just unnatural. I have flip-flops that want to be worn

4) When a person acts in a way that is not normal for them, it is their subconscious jumping up and down, waving their hands saying “hey, over here!” We need to watch what people do and not just what they say. We could learn a  lot about how they are feeling

5) Single folks shouldn’t expect an instant connection on a first date. It would be like meeting a new friend and assuming you’re best friends right there on the spot. Human connections take time to grow and become enriching to our lives.  It doesn’t happen quickly (or at least it shouldn’t)

What’s on your list?