Archives for January, 2011
We just got back from teaching in Santa Barbara California. The temperatures were in the upper 60’s to lower 70’s and the sun was shining every day. It was a nice break from the cold weather we’d been experiencing in New Mexico. While away, I was asked to spend a week answering questions about seasonal affective disorder on a web site called cafemom (www.cafemom.com). Cafemom is a community of mothers who chat, share information, and support each other. I agreed, thinking that there would be very few questions. I was wrong. The interest in SAD appears to be rather huge, especially at the end of January.
I’m sitting in a lecture. Psychologists, like many other professionals, are required to take continuing education classes. There are 17 people sitting in this workshop. I counted them so that I could distract myself from listening. By the way, we all paid money to attend. I like to take classes in areas that I might find interesting. I always hope to learn something new, but if not new, I’m pretty pleased if I leave with a reminder of something I might have forgotten. If not something new or forgotten, then at least some small bit of renewal, hope, or humor. Basically, I’m pretty tolerant. But today, I find myself not just bored, but annoyed and a bit anxious. Have you ever been in a class and suddenly came down with restless leg syndrome. I feel like I need to get out of here—just get up and leave. But if I do, I won’t get those darn continuing education units. So, I’m stuck.
Humans, for the most part, like certainty and stability. Most people growing up in the United States believe that if they studied in school, worked hard, played fair, paid their bills, followed the laws of the land, and saved for the future, that their basic needs will be met throughout life. Sure, bad things happen to good people, but those were generally considered the exceptions and not the rules. A recent event has shaken my sincere and perhaps naïve view of the world in which we live. I watched a two year fruitless struggle of someone I care about try to deal with a giant, evil, unknowable, mortgage bank. In order to protect her privacy, we’ll call her Jane. It all started when Jane’s husband lost his job. Back in January 2009, Jane called her mortgage company in order to be considered for a modification. The first person she spoke to gave her a list of papers she should send in (tax returns, pay stubs, mortgage papers, bills, etc). After multiple hours on hold, faxes, and repeated conversations, in March of 2009, Jane was told that in order to start the process she would need to begin making reduced payments (wired to the mortgage company). She did every month.
Like millions around the world, I spent some time discussing resolutions for the coming year with family and friends. Most of us talked about increasing healthy living, getting more exercise, eating better food, or working hard to decrease stress. Some talked about professional goals such as getting through a school program, successfully managing a work project, writing another book, or figuring out how to say “no” to a narcissistic, overly demanding boss. After many decades of participating in the yearly ritual of setting goals and objectives, I admit the exercise rarely sparks great passion or enthusiasm. Personally, I’m pretty happy with where I am. I live a reasonably content, healthy, and satisfying life. I’ve been able to accept most of my limitations (for example, I will certainly never get younger and will unlikely write the great American novel), but feel pretty peaceful at where I sit—mostly at my computer or looking out at the mountains.