The Holiday Season and Why It’s Not Always the Best Time of the Year

Posted by: Coretta Rego, MA, RP, CCC on November 8, 2019 12:24 pm

It won’t be long before the fall leaves have been raked up, the trick or treaters have come and gone and the countdown to the end of the year will begin. In the midst of all of this revelry, there will be many opportunities for gatherings with loved (or not so loved) ones. Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas are all celebrated closer to the end of the year. Even if one isn’t religiously inclined, the end of the year tends to bring with it multiple occasions for celebration. Unfortunately, along with the food, drinks and presents, there also tends to be a large serving of stress.

There are different reasons why people find the holidays so stressful. It can be busy with every evening or weekend committed to a celebration of some kind. It can be expensive with the list of people to buy gifts for getting longer each year. It can also involve social interactions that can be uncomfortable or downright unpleasant.

In some cases, holiday stress can often turn into distress.  As therapists, we are aware that holidays can be a difficult experience for people.  Family estrangement, grief and financial pressure are some of the reasons why people struggle at what is often promoted as the most wonderful time of year.

So how do we support our clients, loved ones and ourselves to remain emotionally healthy during the holiday season? Unlike other life events that may happen less frequently and are therefore a little easier to grin and bear, the holidays are inescapable. It can be beneficial if we take some time in advance to think about what we anticipate the challenges of the season will bring, and come up with a coping plan. While the hope is to create a plan that can help us thrive, in some cases, simply surviving and making it out to the other side is also a valid goal.

Here are some suggestions to help you plan for the upcoming holiday season:

  • When possible, try declining invitations to certain events. Regardless of how much fun an event is promoted as being (like an annual reunion with your high school friends) or how obligated you feel to attend (a family dinner), saying no to an event or two has multiple benefits. To start with, it gives you back some time in your schedule, spares you the expense of attending, as well as allows you to avoid any unpleasant social encounters. It also helps to build some comfort in saying no and not feeling guilty about it, which is an important life skill.

 

  • If there is a social event that you must attend, recruit a buddy to go with you. Think about what your biggest concern is about attending this event. Is it the small talk with colleagues you only see once a year? Turn to the person in your social circle who is skilled at banter. Is it seeing a family member who often berates you? Take a loved one who can calmly but firmly put an end to the conversation. If necessary, make an appearance and have a signal in case an early exit is required. The benefit here is twofold: you get credit for attending, while also allowing you to avoid some of the more challenging aspects of the social gathering.

 

  • If you feel that hosting a social gathering is an important though stressful element of the season, consider choosing an alternate venue. For example, in lieu of a potentially tense dinner with the entire extended family in your home, consider inviting family members to a public event in the community a few days before or after the holiday season (for example, ice skating at the local rink). This is an opportunity for the family to be together while removing some of the one on one interaction that is often the source of conflict and stress. It also gives an objective goal to focus upon…

 

  • If the holiday season is difficult due to grief, give yourself permission to not celebrate if you don’t feel capable, or to celebrate on a smaller scale. Carve out time and space to grieve. If possible, do something specific that addresses your loss so that it doesn’t feel minimized in the midst of the celebration occurring around you.

 

  • If the holiday season fills you with dread to the point that it is interfering with your well being, consider speaking to a therapist. A therapist can work with you to not only address the source of the struggle, but also to come with strategies for how to manage it. Holidays can have a negative impact on mental health and well being regardless of how well one has been throughout the year. Seeking the appropriate professional support can be very beneficial.

For some people, the holiday season is truly the most wonderful time of the year. For others, there is less joy and more strain. Regardless of how you feel about the season, remember to take care of yourself, as that is the best gift you can give yourself and others.

Coretta Rego, MA, RP, CCC




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

When a Client Dies

Posted by: Doc Warren on October 15, 2019 11:39 am

I’ll never forget the first time that I received notice that a client had died. I’ll never forget any of them actually. No training truly prepared me and I’ve had far more training than the average thanks to an intense drive on my part and having had some of the best mentors in the field. I can only imagine how folks with minimal training and a lack of good supervision fare.

The longer we are in the field, the more likely we are to have experienced the death of a client. The death may have been through accident or natural causes or by their own or someone else’s hands.  Few, if any, clinical training programs spend any great deal of time exploring this issue unless you are specializing in hospice settings. When a death happens, there are many things that tend to be the focus of supervision and consultation sessions. Below are some of the more common issues that I find in my supervision and consulting work when a client has passed.

Processing the loss yourself
Once receiving notice of the death, many clinical professionals attempt to “work through the pain” by continuing their day as they normally would. Though this may work for some, many, if not most, will require time to process the loss either immediately or in the very near future. Be sure to allow yourself to be human, acknowledge the loss, explore the emotions associated with it and whenever possible, do this with the help of a colleague. You do not have to keep everything bottled in. Remember what you would do for and with friends, loved ones and clients who have suffered a loss and allow yourself to be present with your emotions so that you may heal. While there are times when you may need to continue to work to help aid others who are affected, processing it yourself as soon as possible can be a key factor in moving forward healthily.

Could I be liable?
One of the first fears shared by clinicians when a client has died of anything other than natural causes is that they may be sued or otherwise investigated. In most cases, there has been nothing to indicate that this could happen assuming that  the clinical professional has given nothing but the best level of care to the client that has passed. This fear is sometimes grounded in the grief process itself: the clinician is blaming themselves for not having been able to prevent the death. Other times it can be a simple fear of being sued by a next of kin that is “just looking for someone to blame” regardless of any real malpractice having occurred. A small fraction of the time (I have personally never encountered anyone in this situation) the clinician has indeed made mistakes that could be considered malpractice. In this case, the fear may indeed be founded. Whether or not you feel you did anything wrong, when in doubt, contact your malpractice/liability insurance provider and discuss the matter with them. It shouldn’t cost you anything more than your time and just may help ease your worries.

Protecting the client’s right to privacy
Today more than ever we find ourselves with the ability to emote freely via venues that were unthinkable just a few short years ago. Many find themselves posting to social media for just about everything. Public grieving is considered the norm to many folks but as clinical professionals we need to remember that the client’s right to privacy does not end with their death, therefore we as clinical professionals should refrain from public expressions of grief that either name or share any information that could potentially identify a client that has passed. I’ve seen very good clinicians make this mistake. Comments such as “I lost a client recently to a drunk driver” or “Cancer took a client today” may seem harmless enough but can lead to ethical issues especially if more information is also shared.

I’ve also seen clinical professionals that have made generic statements on personal or professional pages that would appear to be fine. Comments such as “thinking of those lost to cancer” or drunk drivers, suicide etc. may help the clinician process without potentially identifying a recently deceased client.

Should you get a request from a next of kin to provide copies of the deceased treatment records, be sure to consult with an attorney to learn exactly what the next of kin is allowed to access and what they will need to provide your office in order to allow you to release copies. Here again, your liability insurance provider can be a key resource as well as your supervisor.

To go or not to go to services
Going to the services of a client that has passed can be a controversial decision. One side of the coin says that by your very presence you are saying that the deceased was a client unless they were a known friend, coworker or relative of ours. The other side of the coin says that if the service is open to the public then you are free to go with no need to explain. Many a heated conversation has come from posing this question in a group supervision encounter. One quick way to handle this would be to contact your liability insurance provider for guidance. Please note however that the answer may differ from provider to provider.

For me, I have only attended services if a surviving relative has requested me to attend. Even with such a request I will neither confirm nor deny that I ever had a professional relationship and will instead simply say that we live in a small town and that we all seem to know one another.

Erasing” the client from your practice
Many a consult has been spent processing feelings of guilt from clinicians who were feeling conflicted about how “easy” it was to “simply remove a person from my schedule.” The actual act of erasing a client from a schedule may indeed only take a moment. For me, in my office I have opted not to use the electronic scheduler that others use and instead use a pencil and paper system. I have literally erased people after a death and can remember the lump in my throat the first time I did so. I also remember hesitating to “give their time” away to a new client. It required some processing and grief work before I was able to truly move forward. Now, I remember that it was not the time slot nor the written name that made a difference, it instead, was the relationship that we had and that cannot be removed with a number two pencil.

Telling a staff member that their client has passed.
If you are a supervisor you likely will be one of the first people to learn of a death of any client. In my practice I have instructed the reception folks to notify me should there be any calls notifying us of a loss of life. They also will keep up to date on local obituaries as well as in some cases there is no next of kin that knows that the deceased was receiving services.  While there is no one correct way, I would avoid the use of texting, email, private messenger or other electronic means to advise your staff member of the loss. To me, a phone call is a last resort for notification and instead will call and ask the clinician to come see me the first thing when they come in. Once in, I try not to have it be too formal as in having a large desk between the two of us. Although I would never stage the encounter, I have shared the information while walking on one of the dirt roads on our therapeutic farm, sitting by the brook, walking some of our trails or spending time with our therapeutic animals. How I did it had more to do with the clinician and their normal preferences than it did with mine. Ensuring the privacy of the clinician is paramount as well. Should they need to cry, talk it out, yell a bit or whatever, the ability to do so without an audience is key. Many times, we process not just the passing but the process that the therapy took on, the good work that they provided and what they themselves will cherish from the encounter.

Moving forward
After the basic processing has taken place, it is good to remember that there may indeed be a need for further reflection and moments of pause in the future. Allow yourself to not only be a clinical professional but also a human being. We are not machines. Process as needed.

Be safe, do good

-Doc Warren

”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Coping with Political Fatigue

Posted by: Coretta Rego, MA, RP, CCC on October 7, 2019 2:14 pm

I was channel surfing recently and came across a commercial for the upcoming federal election. I changed the channel and came across another commercial. After having watched bits of each I thought to myself that I was ready for this election to be over and wasn’t particularly concerned about the outcome. That thought caught me by surprise as I am a political aficionado. I follow what goes on in government both nationally and internationally and I also love to discuss various hot button issues at length. It occurred to me that if someone like me can be so tired of the political cycle, many people must not only be fatigued but quite possibly overwhelmed by it.

Politics no longer lives in a realm outside of us. Instead, politics are now deeply personal, which means that there is a lot at stake in any given election. Recent elections have focused on issues that are deeply personal and inextricably linked to the type of world we want to live in and build for the next generation. However, with the promise of change and betterment that an election might bring, also comes the possibility that the outcome might be the polar opposite of what we wanted. The consequences of which can feel dire.

Additionally, discussions about politics have become inescapable. With the upcoming federal election in Canada and what seems like an ongoing election cycle for our American neighbours, politics remain constant even when the seasons change. Whether it is the onslaught of 24 hours news channels that are constantly dissecting every piece of information, or online message boards where people openly share antagonizing opinions without any responsibility to fact check, it is easy to get caught up in the negativity.

So how do we not just survive but thrive in this increasingly politically charged atmosphere? How do we remain engaged in political dialogue without becoming disillusioned about the world we live in? How do we support our clients as they navigate relationships with family members, friends and colleagues that quickly become hostile due to divergent political and personal views?

It is important to begin by recognizing that how we approach these issues will determine the outcome we achieve. Responding angrily to a tweet or getting into a heated argument with a family member over dinner is unlikely to produce civil discourse. Recognizing that what we talk about has an impact on the daily life of the other person can help build empathy. The point of a discussion cannot be to change the other person’s opinion. Discussion is about planting seeds and exposing people to things they may not have considered. We cannot go into conversations expecting to change someone’s opinion. If we do, we are bound to be disappointed.

Let’s also give ourselves permission to tune out or disconnect as needed. While smart phones and app notifications make it easy to constantly be plugged in, periodic breaks can help us avoid becoming overwhelmed by the information. Unless it is your profession, political engagement doesn’t have to happen 24/7. Taking a break from the deluge of information can help us process the information better and also provides an opportunity to focus on other equally important things.

Lastly, when it all seems too much, let’s take a moment to reflect on how far we have come. Let’s celebrate all that we have accomplished, the battles that were won by previous generations that have had positive impacts on our lives. History books are filled with stories of human triumph. Let’s use this to energize us for what lies ahead.

Political engagement is important; our democracy depends on it. However, political engagement should not compromise our mental health or well being. Maintaining optimism in the current political climate is not easy, but it is possible.

Coretta Rego MA, RP, CCC




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Managing Teenagers’ Stress

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on September 9, 2019 3:00 pm

I have seen a number of teens who are adjusting to the demands and pressures of their last year of high school as they transition into college. In particular, American teens feel a tremendous pressure during this phase of life. Parents should be aware of these pressures and seek to assist their adolescent obtain balance, a healthy lifestyle, and good coping skills. Although I could provide my professional thoughts, I wanted to share some insights from teenagers who have experienced this phase of life stress firsthand.

As a 17-year-old teen who is about to enter my senior (4th) year of high school, I find that transitioning into adult life is stressful. I take a college class over the summer vacation which entails writing papers, researching, and reading a lot of material. My current college class has 12 required books. I am volunteering at a hospital to gain experience, preparing to submit my college applications, and attending practices for an All Star Cheer Team, to say the least. Here is how I manage my stress:

  • I listen to my favorite music. People suggest listening to “relaxing” music; my favorite music isn’t always relaxing music but that type is not for everyone. Listen to what you prefer, as long as your choice of music relaxes you. Another way I de-stress is by taking a shower. I also enjoy taking a 30-minute nap. Sometimes a nap as short as 15-20 minutes works as well.
  • If none of those approaches work, I try calling a good friend. Talking helps me relieve stress. I feel better after Face Timing (video conferencing) or after a long phone call with a friend. I feel more relaxed/distressed and ready to take on the world. Last, exercising or being active is another way to de-stress. Considering taking on a sport either in school or as an extracurricular activity. (Lathanise Cox-Moscatello, July 2019)

Life is both stressful and challenging, at times. I am 14 years old and going into my junior (3rd) year of high school. I am two grades ahead for my age and still take challenging classes like pre-AP Chemistry. As both an artist, and a soccer manager for our school team, I am very busy. I have attended both science and art camps like this over most summers. I also volunteer at a local hospital over the summer to gain experience. The following is what I recommend to maintain a healthy lifestyle (Ramona Cox-Moscatello, July 2019):

  1. Do not allow your stress to build up, because you may blow up or overreact to a situation.
  2. Find what works for you. Take some time to figure out [what you like].
  3. Cold showers wake you up and warm showers help to relax your muscles.
  4. If you can’t find anything that works, ask your parents about seeing a mental health professional.

I concur with their recommendations. Additionally, taking on a hobby such as gardening, playing an instrument, or art might be useful. Exercising is also important in our overall health. In a Vancouver study, older adults executive brain functioning increased between 11%-13% when the participants received resistance exercise training (Liu-Ambrose et al., 2010). Exercising can allow us to accomplish tasks better. In fact, additional studies have demonstrated that participants performed better over a range of cognitive tasks, when they exhibited greater muscular strength (Boyle et al. 2009; Narazaki et al. 2014). Choose an approach for managing your stress that is pro social, in which you can find balance, stay healthy, and obtain good coping skills for better managed teen aged stress.

Lakawthra Cox, MA, MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC
Lathanise Cox-Moscatello, Contributor
Ramona Cox-Moscatello, Contributor

References
Boyle PA, Buchman AS, Wilson RS, et al (2009). Association of muscle strength with the risk of Alzheimer disease and rate of cognitive decline in community dwelling older persons. Arch Neurol 66(11):1339-1344, 2009 19901164. In Noordsy, D. L., editor. (2019) Lifestyle psychiatry. American Psychiatric Association. Washington, DC.
Liu-Ambrose T. Nagamatsu LS, Graf P, et al: Resistance training and executive functions: a 12-month randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med 170-178, 2010 20101012. In Noordsy, D. L., editor. (2019) Lifestyle psychiatry. American Psychiatric Association. Washington, DC.
Narazaki K, Matsuo E, Honda T, et al: Physical fitness measures as potential markers of low cognitive problems. J Sports Sci Med. 13 (3): 590-596, 2014 25177186. In Noordsy, D. L., editor. (2019). Lifestyle psychiatry. American Psychiatric Association. Washington, DC.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

What Happened to Rites of Passage?

Posted by: Grant M. Waldman, MA, CCC, CIAS III on July 4, 2019 1:54 pm

When was the last time you heard of a bunch of boys being taken out to the wilderness by the men of a village to experience a Rites of Passage? My guess is that not many of you have. Fortunately for this writer, I have been involved in this work for both boys and men over the past dozen years.

My first exposure to this work came through a men’s group that I joined in Indianapolis (of all places). It was a safe place for men to gather to share their truth without judgement. I later learned that the man who founded the group was initially involved with a larger organization that was then called: “The New Warriors”.  It would take me seven years until I met up with this organization again. By that time, it had changed its name to: “The Mankind Project” (MKP) – an organization based in the mid-western United States that has spread to many parts of the globe.

Once I connected with MKP, I was invited to attend a Rites of Passage weekend for men called: “The New Warrior Training Adventure”.  This was a very powerful rites of passage experience that invited me to take a deeper look at my life.  Since going through my weekend, I have invited many men to experience the weekend and it has changed many lives and rippled out into the world.

After being involved with MKP, I realized that I wish I had experienced this rites of passage when I was much younger, and was hopeful that my son could experience this for himself. Low and behold, I came across Boys to Men, a rites of passage experience for boys.  I wasted no time in bringing my son to a weekend and, following that, organized several men in my community in order to bring the weekend to us. We  ended up delivering the rites of passage several times in our own community!

This is powerful healing work for boys and men that I would invite therapists to investigate for clients with whom they believe would benefit from this empowering experience. There are a number of YouTube videos that are worth watching for further insights.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Horrible Placement

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on April 29, 2019 2:21 pm

My girls had an Arts Festival and talent show at school one year. Lenay placed 1st & 2nd for her art in her age and grade category. Monet placed 2nd and 3rd for her art. The girls told me some kids had received, “horrible,” hand-written on their ribbons. I told them that that could not be true.

Apparently, one of the young girls who received the horrible placement ribbon, started to cry over her status. I saw the horrible placement ribbons on several art pieces, written in cursive; they actually read “honorable mentions”.

Sometimes you perceive a horrible placement for a challenge in your life. This perception keeps you from trying things that you would otherwise attempt. For example, you want to  model but you are not the height of a runway model. You want your degree in business administration but plan to settle for a management degree because you have poor math skills. Perhaps, you want to become a psychologist but there are no available psychology programs in your area. Do you just give up because you are in, what you believe to be, a horrible placement? Happiness comes from doing what you love and what motivates you (Anderson, 2004). To experience happiness, you deserve to have a career or hobby that inspires you, within the confines of morality, of course. Turn your horrible placement into an honorable mention. Decide to improve your situation by viewing and perceiving your situation differently.

Reference
Anderson, N. (2004). Work with passion: How to do what you love for a living. Novato, CA: New world Library.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Lead…Who Me?

Posted by: Gloria Pynn BA, BEd, MEd, CCC, RPsych on April 15, 2019 2:52 pm

Unfortunately, many of our workplaces, communities, political systems are presently in a precarious place with regards to leadership – many people experiencing doubt and fear for the future. My steadfast belief is that Leadership lives in every person, everywhere, every single day. Our voices and daily work as counsellors and psychotherapists has such impact on individuals creating a ripple effect on the systems we work within. The following is a revisit to a reflection on leadership I wrote circa 2013 during leadership succession sessions. After many years in counselling and the school systems, we need to acknowledge our individual leadership capabilities and strive to be effective leaders, starting with the basics. I call these the three Cs…. Care, Commitment and Connectedness.

Care about clients, children, parents, families, social justice and collective community. We all care but think about what care can really mean for you. Demonstrate true empathy not sympathy and reflect this in your actions daily. Take care always to see the importance and impact of decisions we make every day around and with our clients.

The following Brené Brown YouTube video demonstrates sympathy versus empathy brilliantly. In her approach to leadership, Brené Brown suggests to not be afraid to show vulnerability and Dare to Lead. I tend to agree, authentic voices in our relationships and work always demonstrate care and makes our relationships and leadership stronger.

Commitment to lead… by example, in our actions, thoughts and philosophies about children, clients, education, life and people in general. Think about who you are and what, at the end of the day, is socially just and fair for all. We often call it “due diligence” but basically, it’s doing the right thing.

We all realize there are many external constraints e.g. employer policies, ethical and legal standards or practice. Our workplaces e.g. hospitals and schools, are a microcosm of society and where we learn and teach skills around priorities, goal setting, decision making and compromise. Always have voice and input, and help lead toward the best solutions we can reach within fiscal realities and other limiting factors. Lobby and advocate to change our current realities. The goal of our work is to help make a positive difference and impact on our clients’ lives in real time. As I heard Eckhart Tolle speak at a presentation in St John’s NL in June 2018, we only ever have the present moment – The Power of Now.

Thirdly, strive to Be and Keep Connected …. We must seek to know our clients, students, families, and communities through constant communication. Learn to really listen and problem solve together not merely “fix issues” or “band aid problems” but long-term views. Subscribing to a true shared leadership model and seeing that we are powerful voices and leaders, can help us see the “big picture” and provide all reasonable and available supports to others. Also, keep connected to fellow colleagues, as this provides support and reinforcement of the value of our work. In turn, this strengthens our care and commitment to our clients and is key to having success and satisfaction in our counselling practice. Who me … Lead? Yes, you and I do lead every day. Our words and work must always matter.

Think, talk and take good care always.

Gloria

*Dedicated to Dana Brothers – a fierce woman with amazing ideas, a large voice, a real leader every day. Rest in Power

Sources/Readings:
Photo: Gloria Pynn NYC January 2019
Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.
Tolle, E., & OverDrive Inc. (2010). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

From Red Mind to Blue Mind

Posted by: Grant M. Waldman, MA, CCC, CIAS III on April 4, 2019 10:14 am

A new book has recently been published called Blue Mind: The Surprising Science that Shows how Being Near, In, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. The author, Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, has written this book to bring awareness to the healing power of water. The difference between Red Mind and Blue Mind is that a Red Mind is one that has been impacted by the velocity of today’s society; as compared with a Blue Mind that has been calmed by the soothing effects of water.

Water has been a healing element for indigenous peoples since time immemorial; turning to water to take away illness and unhealthy emotions. To this day, First Nations in Canada still go to the water to cleanse or bathe throughout the year. It is common after each round during the sweat lodge ceremony for participants to turn to water to wash off. Today, many indigenous people have been impacted by mainstream culture and therefore many of the people have Red Mind because they are caught up in the pace of modern society. Water needs to be brought back to the people to decolonize their minds.

In his book, Dr. Nichols also writes about the impacts industrialization has had on water and why it is imperative for all of us to invest time and resources to clean up our water systems and to stop polluting. This is going to take a tremendous amount of willpower in order to consistently send this message to government and corporations. Restoration of ecosystems cannot occur, however, if pollution continues and global warming is not mitigated.

All of us will benefit immensely by embracing the healing powers of water and shifting our minds from Red to Blue; we will all be healthier and more connected to Mother Earth. It is about recognizing that by slowing down and experiencing the awe of an ocean vista, mountain, lake or steam, we will re-remember where we come from and know that by having a renewed connection with water, we will cleanse ourselves and feel better as a human species.

Grant Waldman, MA, CCC, CIAS III




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

My Father’s Hands: Things We Can Learn from Generations that Came Before Us

Posted by: Doc Warren on March 19, 2019 9:17 am

My father was not much of a talker. Now that I think of it, he wasn’t  into nurturing either, but he did teach me a great deal just the same. Though I could probably count the number of hugs on a single finger he gave me from the time I turned ten until he passed away, he still managed to help shape many aspects of my life. I miss him.

Folks can teach us in many ways. They can teach us with their words, be they written or recorded. They can teach us much like the folk stories of old, verbal histories shared from generation to generation, each one with a point, focus on a moment in history or a moral tale. Sometimes these are the best types of stories. The farm that I work on is named from a local folk tale. It was shared from person to person and never written down until the farm was named after the woodland creature in the tale. In fact, much debate was spent on how to spell this creature’s name. At least three renditions were explored before “Pillwillop” was decided upon…

Not being a writer, a talker or a hugger, my father was a bit more limited in his approach.  He shared few words, even fewer the number of words that he liked to use that I could actually share in a professional writing. That’s not to say that he had little to teach as his actions taught me much about what I view how a man should behave. He set many an example, some good, some not, but every one helped me become who I am today.

One of my main memories of my father was when I was a toddler. My father was home from work, a real treat for me as I rarely saw him. He was in bed, tired but in a better mood than usual. I looked at his hands. They were cracked from solvents but also stained with machine oil, which gave a spider web type look to his giant (to me) fingers.  His palms and several fingers were wrapped with bandages caused by a work mishap. Sometimes the old machines needed to take what they felt were theirs, especially if you were rebuilding them. I remember asking my dad why he was home and he said something about sometimes needing to take a break. He didn’t talk about the pain or injuries and instead just talked about taking a break, he’d be back to work the next day.

I sat their staring at his hands and looking down at mine. Mine were so delicate, his looked like stone. His were cracked and wrapped, mine never had been. Finally I asked him about his hands and why they were wrapped. Only then did he say that sometimes the machines win but he was fine. He’d get the machine back together tomorrow…

All those scars on his hands told the tale of a man whose hardscrabble upbringing helped mold him into what he became. They inspired his son and others though he had so little to say about them. Always inquisitive (many would say nosey), I asked everything I could while I had access to him. There is so much to be learned from those that came before us. So much that has been lived. So much to teach us but so many of our elders keep the stories to themselves. Too little is written down.

As I type these words I look now at my own hands. They are middle aged and at times cannot grip a hammer any longer. They are prematurely worn out due to the same hardscrabble upbringing of their own. We learned to be creative though. When I could not grip a hammer I taped it to my closed hand. When my wrists were full of pain I used that same tape. My father’s hands taught me this. There is much to be learned. So much to be offered if we simply take the time to ask.

To those that are reading this, consider taking a day off from work very soon so that you can spend it with those from older generations. Look not just at their hands, take the time to ask them about life when they were your age. Ask them about when they were younger than you are. Ask them how times and things have changed. Hang onto those words as best you can. Record them if possible so that they can continue to teach us long after we have passed.

There is so much knowledge just waiting to be uncovered. So much that may be on the verge of being lost. Now is the time.

Be safe, do good

-Doc Warren

”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Life’s a Masquerade

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on March 15, 2019 8:16 am

My sister had a masquerade party for her 30th birthday. The guests were dressed like 17th century patrons in fancy ball clothes, and even her cake had a vertical floating gold masquerade ball mask. Children, adults, and grandparents attended her authentically themed party, hosted in a large party hall. Can you imagine waltzing across a ballroom floor in your fancy clothes, while you escape in the music and getting to enjoy the company of other guests through great conversation, warmth, and laughter? The hors d’oeuvres are simply smashing. Generally, people report friendships or close relationships as the most valuable and meaningful part of life (Klinger, 1997; Bibby, 2001). What better way to spend time than in a masquerade party with good friends and family.

I never considered having a special party for my 30th birthday, or any other birthday for that matter. I am lucky to care to attend my own graduations, as I skipped my high school and my first master degree graduation. My approach to skipping out on celebrations is far from healthy. Skipping out leads to not only isolating yourself, but also isolating other people in your life. When my children view old videos of my family, they always ask my mother or sisters, “Where was my mom?” I was usually engaged in my own individual activities somewhere else in the house. My absence from family activities in my adolescence has apparently robbed my children, a generation later, of any meaningful insight about my life growing up. Avoid isolating yourself, as isolation can lead to loneliness among other negative emotional consequences. Remember to celebrate life, yourself, and your accomplishments – even the small ones.

Now, I take time out to smell the roses, so to speak, and you should do the same. Life is a masquerade but don’t hide behind your masks – have a ball. If you do, your happiness will keep you healthier.

References
Bibby, R.W. (2001). Canada’s Teens, Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow. Toronto: Starddart.
Klinger, D.A. (1997). Negotiating order in patrol work: an ecological theory of police response to Deviance. Criminology 35(2):277–306.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA