Tag Archives: Learning

Are things better?

Prompted by a thoughtful letter from a friend and former colleague, after reading a recent post.

Are things better? Well, not really. That said, I have started a skills class that uses both cognitive behaviour therapy, acceptance commitment therapy (kind of CBT 2.0) and other techniques based on mindfulness. My application of these techniques is still somewhat rustic; some of the techniques are more familiar and useful, and I find myself employing them to constructive ends. Counting, for example.

Other times, the notion of radical acceptance,  a critical piece of these therapies, seems anathema to who I am. Would I have been able to work where I worked, and do the things I did were I to radically accept the environments in which I worked? It seems, in some fundamental ways, that my radical rejection of the status quo was the key to my professional successes, if not my personal ones.

That is not to say that I don’t radically accept situations around me – it’s just that I am aware of my ambivalence. I sit and offer both radical acceptance and my reticence chairs next to me, and keep my hands, palms up, on my lap. It’s new, and difficult.

Another technique critical to CBT in terms of dealing with trauma is encouraged disassociation. This is another one of those tools that doesn’t feel natural. Trauma in me triggers confrontation, not hiding or pretending something doesn’t exist. Again, it’s a matter of degrees, of understanding that the dissociation is only used sparingly, and in a temporary manner  – to give a bit of breathing room and of space, to allow for the right solution to make itself more apparent.

My moments of peace and happiness to the point where I feel close enough to happy to be making up songs, are in the kitchen, and with the kids at bedtime. So I do get to have them, and they are delightful, and I can forget the other aspects of my life completely. Baking is just wonderful, and a good outlet for me. I enjoy making things that are appreciated, and the cakes I’ve made for my son’s school auctions (mostly in the form of year-long subscriptions) have allowed me to investigate recipes on behalf of the client family. And musically speaking, keeping a melody, a metered lyric, a rhyme scheme, and a child’s attention at bedtime, when they’d prefer to be jumping on the mattress, are distractions aplenty.

We have projects here and there; my son has sports, school activities, and a certain melancholy. My daughter has yet to decide whether to use her tremendous personal power for good or evil. We are about to embark on a large remodel which will create a family room, a new bedroom for my son (it will be the nicest room in the house, given that he will inherit both Doug fir built-ins
– a bookcase and a floor-to-ceiling cabinet), and will give up half of the spider park that is our two-car garage for a new bathroom. The lab technicians took 13 samples to determine whether we will be exposing lead and asbestos in the inevitable clamor of demolition. Plus the permits.

And yet, there it is. The sadness is still very much there. The lack of community. The sense that the only help I get with my depression requires payment. The things I miss.

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dino fever

The word went out this year to family and friends – Ben has discovered dinosaurs. As a result, our T-Rex count is now at 4 – two large plastic, one small plastic and one plush for bedtime. We have a large pteradactylus, a large elasmosaurus, the big and small triceratops (you need more than one, since they live in herds), and many small guys, including an ankylosaurus, some raptors (he hasn’t yet discovered xkcd), a set of stegosauri and lots of plastic trees and rocks.

Ben’s dino media library now includes 11 titles, and the superstar is the Encyclopedia Prehistorica – Dinosaurs, a remarkable gem of (non Web) pop-up artistry. It’s the book he wants to “read” every night. It’s amazing to see how quickly he learns the species, how he can recognize and compare animals, and his surprise in learning that what’s on the outside of the package isn’t always inside.

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Christmas animal action

Last year, Ben learned a song at daycare called Animal Action, where he would move and make sounds like a particular animal. It was one of his favorites, given his established love of creatures.  He still performs it, along with the Zoboomafoo theme song.

So, as people asked for Christmas gift ideas, I went to the zoo, the aquarium and museum of natural history for suggestions. We now have 5 dinos, including 2 battling T-Rex; a bucket of sea creatures, between 5 and 10 animal books, including the amazing Encyclopedia Prehistorica – Dinosaurs. We have yet to open the 4ft box containing an ark.

It’s been an eye-opener to see how Ben relates to the animal world. The aspects of dramatic play have expanded to include a repetoire of prehistoric and current creature behaviour. We now have T-Rex family meetings, tiger pouncing, and leaping lemur time.  We swim in the tub and on the floor, we waddle and applaud with our flippers, and sleep under the water like hippos, bubbling up only for a breath of fresh air.

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