I like to talk.  Anyone that knows me, understands that talking is something that not only provides me enjoyment, but over the course of my own life, has been extremely therapeutic enabling me to work through some of life’s most challenging issues.  Including the death of both my mother and my father, a full career change, the birth of my son and various life changing events that I will be sure to expand on as my writing continues.  My son often tells me I talk too much.  He’s probably right.  But I also like to listen and I’m not sure if I ever would have found myself with such a comfort level for both if not for my own life experience almost 30 years ago.  It was during that time that I discovered counseling and therapy.

Someone once cautioned me about my openness to sharing my history regarding therapy.  Which is somewhat conflicting given I have a Masters Degree in Counseling.  In the counseling world, there is a big emphasis on “self-care” and quite frequently, you will find someone who provides counseling, also seeks out counseling.  However, I am not a clinician and my history with counseling stems far beyond the years that I have been in practice as a Career Counselor.  I also understand there is often a hesitation to seek out counseling.  But for me, I have been going to therapy on and off for close to 30 years.  I guess one of the main points that I am looking to share today is, going to therapy is one of the many ways I have been able to cope in my life.  But not the only way…and I was not always as open minded regarding therapy.

When I was 15 years old, my mom died.  I was numb, scared, angry, confused and quite frankly I really didn’t care much about anything.  Once I returned to the 10th grade that October, I remember just going through the motions.  I remember skipping a few classes here and there with friends and I was failing Math.  I also remember feeling that my Math teacher at the time was being a real jerk and didn’t seem to care much that my mother had passed away.  As far as he was concerned, the time that I missed was my responsibility and I had to find a way to catch up.  That’s really all that I remember about that teacher.  It’s funny you can go through a time with little memory of particular moments, but one poignant moment will stand out and stay with you a lifetime; even if you can’t really remember exactly what happened.  That moment for me was when the Principal of my School called me out into the hallway.  As I walked into the hall, he looked at me and said something that honestly, I cannot remember.  I just remember he grabbed my elbow (I could be making this up), and physically walked me down to the Social Worker in our School.  Everything is truly a blur, but if I can take a moment to envision what may have happened as this was a moment that truly shifted the direction of my life, it is as follows:

Principal:  You’re going to counseling.

Me:  I don’t need counseling!

Principal:  This is not up for debate, you need to get your act together.

Me:  I don’t need to go to counseling.

Principal:  Your mother just died, you’re failing school, you need to get your act together.

Me:  Fine!

So, again, I know this isn’t exactly what happened, but as my memory fails me, my heart speaks my experience.  This man, the Principal of my High School, literally forced me to go to the School Social Worker and quite frankly my life was changed forever!  Not overnight, not by the end of the year.  But this started a journey for me that taught me how to cope with the peaks and the valleys of life.  Therapy has enabled me to maneuver through some of the most traumatic events that any one person could possibly endure and while difficult, I have always come through on the other side stronger, more determined and with even more empathy and compassion than I ever could have imagined.

Two years later, my Senior Year of High School was filled with plenty of success including being crowned Homecoming Queen, a strong extracurricular resume, solid grades and acceptance to one of my First Choice of Colleges.  I am not sure if I would have been where I was that year if not for the support of my High School Counselor, incredible friends and other staff at my school.  Going to counseling truly changed the path I was going down, and while I lost touch with her, I know that she will never forget how she helped me change my journey for the better.

Counseling isn’t for everyone.  However, I understand that it is critical for each of us to determine ways that enable us to cope with life.  I have found what works for me;  therapy, running and working out, writing and amazing friends that get it.  I’ve even begun exploring yoga and meditation, two things that I know will be amazing.  I just need to make the time, something that we as a society seem to be losing more of.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we cope as a Society.  I often hear that life today is definitely nothing like it used to be.  But how do we cope with that?  It’s something I am very passionate about.  Not only for myself, but for my family, my friends and even my students.  I have worked in and out of Higher Education for over 15 years and I have found that as a society, our ability to cope with certain issues has become even more challenging.  We are distracted.  We are rushed.  We are overwhelmed.  We are just keeping our heads above water.  I have found that what has worked for me among other things, is to take a step back and take an inventory of what is truly important.  It has helped me stay grounded; most of the time.  When I find myself falling back to my old habits of self-doubt and self judgement, I try to remind myself how I got here and all that I have come through.  I have also learned to acknowledge and ask for help when things get to be a bit too much.  It took me a long time to get there.

So here I am 30 years later, and still going to Therapy.  Why?  Because it is one of the ways I have coped with some of the curveballs that life has thrown me.  My therapist of 15 years is in the process of retiring and I have been interviewing new therapists before our final session.  One therapist was actually surprised that I have been seeing the same person for as long as I have.  Which struck a nerve.  While I know that talking through issues is not for everyone, it works for me.  Some go for a particular issue, solve it and move on.  For me, I have found that keeping this foundation stable allows me to adjust to life as it changes.  The next therapist upon hearing my initial intake took one look at me and said “WOW!”.  As she took a moment to remind me of the challenges I have faced and seemed utterly speechless over the life experiences I had just rattled off, I realized I found my next therapist.  A warm, nurturing and caring person, who has just begun this next chapter with me and has already reminded me of something that I already knew, “I GOT THIS!”  I just might need a reminder or an extra push sometimes!!!  I hope you too can find your balance…

Thanks for coming along for the journey!!!!  Keep fighting for that sparkle!!!!😊

The Subway

If you’ve ever read the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, you are most likely familiar with the Subway Story.   This story provided me a foundation of understanding others at a young age and has enabled me to find compassion for others even on days I’m feeling like the whole world is falling down around me. In the story a father is riding the subway with his young children.  The children are being very disruptive and a fellow passenger finally loses his patience and proceeded to address him. The father quietly says, “I’m so sorry, they just lost their mom, and I’m not really sure how to get them under control”.

While this isn’t exactly the way the story is told, this is how I had remembered it, and how I have continued to tell it over the past 25 years. It is a story about compassion.  In the book, it talks about that moment serving as a Paradigm Shift—  One moment that can change your entire perspective of a situation or a person. This is something that happens to many of us throughout our life, including myself.  Every person I interact with, I try to imagine the struggles they may have going on in their own life.

For a long time, I couldn’t remember where I had heard of this story.  It wasn’t until I was teaching a course at my University to first year students entitled “Personal Effectiveness” and I realized this story was in Stephen Covey’s book.  I have carried this story around with me for over 25 years since reading it in my “Business Communications” class in college.  Since I can remember, I have always had this story in the back of my mind.

My Paradigm Shift was propelled by this story 25 years ago.  It struck me as I was a young college student, five hours from home in Maryland and missing my Dad who was back in my hometown of Seaford, New York.  I was also missing my Mom, who had passed away only a few years earlier after a long battle with alcoholism. Going away to college was the first time I existed somewhere that no one knew “my story”.  No one could have known the trauma that I had experienced only a few years prior to my first year of college.  I had spent much of my childhood feeling as though I didn’t fit in.  The struggles within my own family were rarely discussed.  I would often look at others as though they were normal and I wasn’t.  I would compare myself to my friends, wishing I had what they did yet not even having a clue as to what that was.  I never really gave much thought to what I actually did have; a father who loved his children and worked tirelessly to ensure we were taken care of.  When I read that story about the dad on the subway with his children, I saw myself there, on the subway.  I imagined what my dad might have said or done in that situation.  I felt that pain, I saw those children and I cried for them and for me.

The “Subway” story resonated and showed me that other people go through traumatic events that are life changing.  It kind of made me feel less alone.  I am sure that many of us can relate to this father.  Sometimes, life just gets to be so much, so hard, so overwhelming.  As I reflect back on the subway story, I felt the pain of that father—the same feeling of “where do I go now?  How will it all make sense?”  I can picture that father looking out the window, completely numb, unable to make sense of the deck of cards he had just been dealt.  Suddenly forced to be a single father to young children after losing his spouse.

It also made me think of my own father.  When my mom passed away, he was about to turn 50 I believe.  He was away on a business trip in Paris, France and his 15-year-old daughter (myself) was home with his mother in law, while his oldest daughter was away at college.  Over the years, I have often thought of my dad, imagining what it was like to receive that call that his wife had passed away, and he had to come home.  I don’t remember him speaking about my mom after she passed away.  I just remember we carried on.

I also think about all the years my dad battled stage 4 liver cancer. While our country was on high alert post 9/11, I was in my late 20’s, newly married starting my life with my husband.  I had made a big decision to go back to graduate school to earn my Master’s Degree in Counseling.  My husband and I were living just outside of New Haven, Connecticut and my father was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City.  So, when I was able, I would take the train into the city to be with him.  I would often find myself sitting on the train, heading into the city after receiving the news that my dad was being admitted once again with a fever.  I would often feel that numbness that was all too familiar. I even remember one day having a realization that when my father passed away, I would be left parentless.  I’m sure that if someone saw me sitting on a train that day, they would have no idea the burdens I had been carrying with me.

As you go about your day, you may never know what that person in line at the grocery store might have just gone through.  It is during these day to day interactions that I try to let my compassion follow me.  I often feel that this is what is often missing in our society, compassion for others.  It is very easy to get caught up in our day to day lives, struggles and challenges.  Everyone is so busy.  But if we take the time to just consider others and imagine they are going through a tough time, rather than thinking “what do they have to be stressed about”, we might find that kindness becomes contagious.  Sometimes, we might see someone that appears to have it all together; a great job, a beautiful family, an incredible community.   But the burdens that may weigh on their heart might be something we could not ever possibly understand or imagine.   A wise woman once said to me, “try not to compare your insides to others outsides”.  Meaning in this day and age, everything is out there on Social Media.  Generally, all the “good things”.  But our lives are filled with EVERYTHING!  The good, the bad and everything in between.  As hard as it might be, I try to be mindful of all of this.  So, the next time you are sitting on a train, look over at the person across from you and if given the opportunity, be kind.

Thanks for reading…

About Me

I have been encouraged for years to write, but the last few years have evolved in such a way that the content of my writing has been shifted, widened and it has taken me a while to make sense of much of what this blog would focus on.  I am the mom of an Only Child.  I am a Law Enforcement Wife to one of the hardest working men I have ever known.  He is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Which means, I am on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for our family.  I am a Motherless Daughter and a Parentless Parent.  I lost my mom when I was 15 years old to Cirrhosis after a long struggle with alcoholism and my father passed away when I was 34 years old after a 7-year battle with Cancer. My son never had the opportunity to meet either of my parents.  Among the many hats I wear, I am also a Private Career Counselor and Adjunct Professor at a Private University in the Northeast.

All of the life experiences I have had to date, make up the person I am today.  Without the successes, failures, struggles, traumas and amazing experiences, I would not be the person I am.  We all have our own journey.  This is mine.  My hope is that throughout the time we spend together, I am able to offer an insight that may at times inspire you as well as motivate you.  Other times, I hope to let you in to possibly help you understand a struggle you or a loved one might be going through from a personal perspective.  I am not a clinician.  I am simply a woman who deeply cares about making a positive impact and has decided to share my journey that as challenging as it has been, has provided me a framework for never giving up.  Feel free to comment, but please refrain from commenting negatively towards anyone else’s comments.  This blog is for support, not judgement.  At the end of the day, just be kind…for we truly will never know the journey of another and the struggles they might have….

The Sparkle part?  There is so much to the Sparkle!!!  Kind of like finding your joy!  Two things I have fought to find, keep and never let go of.  But as many of you all know, sometimes the sparkle fades and the joy subsides….The key is to find the inner strength within yourself to get it back.  Fight for it!  Remember how good it feels and when you have those days that seem to welcome in the darkness, look for the things that help bring out your sparkle.

Thank you for visiting!!!