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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MY CELL MY FRIEND

Nowadays it is a common scene going into a restaurant and at the next table seeing a couple avidly looking at their phones instead of talking to each other. Not only teenagers but adults alike seem to have more things to say to their distant listeners than to their friends or partners who are present. I read once that autism may have something to do with the fact that when mothers push their babies' strollers, they are focused on their cells instead of communicating with their children. It is definitely true that real communication between human beings is based on being present and actively listening to the person who is talking. Otherwise many misunderstandings will happen. In this respect I remember a patient of mine who came to see me because she stated that every time she started a dialogue with her husband he yawned. Although it is obvious that this husband was not in the least interested in listening to his wife, his manners reflected a deep seated hostility that he was unable to control. As you might have guessed, the marriage did not last because without a good communication a relationship cannot exist. Partners who do not communicate, gradually become strangers to each other and after a while the partnership ceases to exist. However, things are different in the later stages of life, especially for those who are divorced or widows/ers and live alone. Such is my case. After many years of marriage, I now live on my own in a apartment that I was finally able to call home. Although it is true that I have a dog who has become a great companion, my cell is my means of communication with the outside world. It starts in the morning when I wake up. My first move is to reach my nightstand looking for my charged cellular. After religiously rebooting it, I avidly check my emails and my messages to see whom I have to contact that day. Next, I open my calendar to check if I have any appointments so as to get ready in time. Later during the day the cell will be in constant use, not only for calls but also for music that I can listen to from the car speakers. In my case technology is definitely not interfering in my life but is of big help instead. Rarely, if ever, do I feel lonely and isolated because if I do, I use the phone to connect me. However, it is one thing to use technology to feel better and another to allow technology to control us. Edith was a friend of mine whom I use have dinner with often. We usually went to an Argentine restaurant that was not expensive and that above all served nice glasses of wine. Unfortunately  Edith had one big shortcoming: as soon as she sat down, she opened her purse and put her phone on the table. From then on her cell was the master and she was the slave. No matter how important was our conversation, if the phone rang or a message vibrated she had to answer... and talk, and talk, and talk. As a result, more than once I felt extremely upset and with the feeling that I was eating alone. As you might have guessed the friendship did not last, not because of the interference of technology but because of Edith's inability to be present when she was with me. Had she been present, she would have sent a message to her callers saying that she would contact them later.

Monday, September 25, 2017

HOW TO SURVIVE THE LOSS OF A MARRIAGE

This is a book based on true stories of divorce and loss. In writing this work, my goal was to share with my readers my way of overcoming one of the deepest losses of our lives. If we understand that life is a never ending process of learning, we will be able to view divorce as a karmic experience that, once accepted, will become one of our most powerful teachings.

Este es un libro basado en historias reales de divorcio y pérdida. Al escribir este libro, mi objetivo fue compartir con mis lectores mi manera de superar una de las pérdidas más profundas de nuestra vida. Si comprendemos que la vida es un interminable proceso de aprendizaje, podremos encarar el divorcio como una experiencia kármica que, una vez aceptada, se convertirá en una de nuestras enseñanzas más poderosas.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

?SE PUEDEN HACER AMIGOS EN LA MEDIANA EDAD?


Como alguien dijo una vez: la vejez no es para gente débil de corazón. Ya el Buda nos había alertado que envejecer estaba plagado de dolor y sufrimiento. Inclusive hoy en día, en que la vida es mucho más comfortable que en la Antiguedad, ser una persona de edad sigue siendo una jornada compleja. No estoy hablando aquí de enfermedades ni de problemas econόmicos, que son de por sí problemas severos. A lo que me refiero son problemas psicológicos como el tedio, hijos adultos que evitan a sus padres a toda costa, o la dificultad de hacer buenos amigos con los que compartir los últimos aňos de nuestra vida en este planeta. Yo sé cuán difícil es para mujeres de mediana edad estar divorciadas o ser viudas y viviendo solas. O tienen una personalidad muy dinámica y no pierden la oportunidad de conectarse con los demas, o se condenan a una vida de soledad e ira. Martha era una mujer de mediana edad divorciada. A pesar de haber estado separada por muchos aňos, ella había logrado reunir un lindo grupo de amigos y vecinos con quienes se veía a menudo. Al no estar interesada en volver a casarse, su deseo era conocer a una amiga con quien compartir sus reflexiones, algunos fines de semana y algún viaje anual. Un día una vieja conocida, viuda y que aún vivía en su país de origen, la llamó para dejarle saber que estaba por mudarse a los Estados Unidos para estar cerca de sus hijos. Martha estaba feliz. Había conocido a esta mujer hacía muchos aňos, cuando sus hijos eran aún pequeňos y ella estaba aún casada, y a pesar de que no le encantaba, por lo menos ambas tenían una larga historia en común. Después de que Cristina –tal era el nombre de su amiga- llegara a los Estados Unidos, llamó a Martha para dejarle saber que había alquilado un apartamento cercano a sus hijos y que esperaba verla pronto. Una Martha muy feliz le contestó que le encantaría ir a visitarla para ponerse al día después de tantos aňos de no verse. Cristina estuvo de acuerdo y se pusieron de acuerdo con la fecha del encuentro. El fin de semana en que se volvieron a encontrar ambas pasaron una tarde deliciosa recordando viejos tiempos en que ambas estaban casadas y con sus hijos viviendo con ellas. “Aún extraňo aquellos días cuando los cuatro íbamos a la playa con los niňos”, había comentado Martha con nostalgia. Pero su amiga no era tan sentimental como ella. A pesar de que Cristina le pareció algo brusca, Martha la excusó diciendose que ser viuda y tener que emigrar había sido muy duro para su amiga. Fue pasando el tiempo hasta que un fin de semana, cuando estaban pasando tiempo juntas y hablando de sus hijos, Cristina se volvió más agresiva que de costumbre. El tema de conversación no era obviamente su tema favorito. Martha sabía que su amiga no tenía una buena relación con sus hijos, y por eso ella había tratado de hacerle algunas sugerencias que la habían ayudado a ella con sus propios hijos. Pero, por la manera en que Cristina había reaccionado, Martha pudo darse cuenta de que su amiga tenía tantas cuentas pendientes en su vida que una amistad con ella sería difícil e impredecible. El fin de semana no terminó bien y Martha volvió a su casa sintiéndose más sola y deprimida que antes del encuentro con su amiga. Afortunadamente, la casa era para Martha un verdadero refugio. No bien llegó se sirvió un vaso de vino y se sentó en el balcón a reflexionar sobre los acontecimientos de los  últimos dos días. La natural belleza que la rodeaba la llenó de un sentimiento de serenidad que le permitió entender mejor la situación. Martha comprendió que, a medida que envejecemos, arrastramos todas las cuentas pendientes generadas a través de los aňos; y a menos que hayamos podido resolverlas,  éstas se convertirán en serios obstáculos en nuestra relación con los demás. Martha también pensó en otra cosa: la soledad no era buena consejera. Desde el comienzo de su reencuentro con Cristina, ella se había dado cuenta de que ambas tenían una visión de la vida y del mundo completamente distinta, y que a menudo ella había dejado pasar alguna cosas a fin de no discutir. A pesar de este preaviso, Martha había dejado que su miedo a la soledad la convenciera de que ésta podía ser una buena amiga. No lo fue y el resultado fue un desagradable fin de semana que la hizo sentir aún más abandonada que antes. Recordemos las etapas de la vida de Erikson: la  última tiene que ver con integridad del ego versus desesperanza porque ya no hay tiempo para corregir errores. Y si bien podemos iniciar una transformación espiritual a cualquier edad, el daňo que le hemos infligido a los demás no desaparece. Se llama karma. Cristina había hecho daňo y lo sabía, pero lo negaba. Es por eso que cualquier sugerencia de su amiga le generaba ira e impotencia. Después de cenar y darse una ducha, Martha se acostó esa noche con una herramienta valiosa para su mochila de la vida: mejor sola que mal acompaňada era definitivamente cierto.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

CAN WE MAKE FRIENDS WHEN WE ARE OLDER?

 Like someone once said: Old age is not for the faint at heart. Already the Buddha alerted us to the fact that being old is fraught with pain and suffering. Even nowadays, when life is much more comfortable than in Antiquity, being an elderly person is still a complex journey. I am not talking here of illness or lack of financial independence, which are already severe problems. What I am referring to here are psychological problems like boredom, adult children who avoid their parents at all cost, and the predicament of finding good friends with whom to share our last years on this planet. I know well how difficult it can be for middle age women to be divorced or widowed and living alone. Either they have a very dynamic personality and don't miss an opportunity to reach out to others, or they are condemned to a life of solitude and anger. Martha was a middle aged divorced woman. Although she had been separated for many years, she was able to create for herself a nice group of friends and neighbors. Since she was not interested in getting married again, her wish was to find a woman friend with whom she could share her thoughts, some weekends and some yearly trips. One day an old acquaintance of hers, who was still living in her country of origin, called her to let her know that she was moving to the US to be near her children. Martha was elated. She had known this woman many years ago, when her children were very young and she was still married, and although she was not exactly her cup of tea, at least they both had a long history together. After Cristina -that was her name- arrived in the US, she called Martha to let her know that she had already rented an apartment near her sons and that she hoped they could meet soon. A very happy Martha told her that she would love to visit her so that they could catch up with all the years they had not seen each other. Cristina agreed and they set up a date for the next weekend. When they got together that weekend, both friends had a wonderful afternoon  remembering old times when both were married and their children were still living with them. "I miss the days when the four of us went to the beach with the children", had said Martha with nostalgia. But her friend was not as sentimental as she was. Although she found Cristina a little bit too harsh for her taste, Martha tried to rationalize the situation by telling herself that being a widow and having to move to a new country had been too stressful for her. Time went by until one weekend, when they were spending time together and talking about their adult children, Cristina became more aggressive than usual. The topic of conversation was obviously not her favorite. Martha knew that her friend did not have a good relationship with her sons, and she had tried to give her some suggestions that had helped her improve her own relationship with her children. But by the way Cristina reacted to her comments, she realized that her friend had so many unfinished businesses in her life that a friendship with her would be too rocky and unpredictable. The weekend did not end up well and Martha went home feeling more depressed and lonely than before meeting with her friend. Fortunately, home was for Martha a real refuge. As soon as she got there she poured herself a glass of wine and sat on the balcony to ponder on the events of the last two days. The natural beauty that surrounded her filled her with a peaceful feeling that allowed her to better understand the situation. She realized that as we get older we all bring along all the unfinished businesses generated through the years; and unless we are able to work them out, they will become serious obstacles to our relationship with others. Martha also thought of something else: loneliness is not a got advisor. Since the beginning of her reunion with Cristina, she had felt that they both had very different views of life and the world, and that often she had to let things go by in order not to start an argument. Despite this warning, Martha had let her fear of loneliness convince her that this could be a good friend. It wasn't, and the price she had paid was a miserable weekend that made her feel even more abandoned than before. Let's remember Erikson's stages of life: the last one has to do with ego integrity versus despair because there is no more time to correct mistakes. And although we can start a spiritual transformation at any age, the harm we have inflicted unto others is there to stay. It's called karma. Cristina was such a woman; she had done harm and she knew it but tried to deny it. That is why any suggestion from her friend brought about a bout of rage and impotence. After having dinner and taking a shower, Martha went to bed that night with a valuable additional tool for her life backpack: better alone than in bad company was definitely true.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

THE WAVES



            The morning had dawned cloudy, but it was not raining. From the closet in my room I took out a pair of black pants and any shirt as black matches everything, and brought my sneakers to the kitchen. Then I called Max, the dog, to put on his leash and ready him for his favorite task: the walk through the park on 84th Street. The park is about twenty blocks from my house, so we drive there and then we walk.

            What is attractive about the 84 Street park is that it is neglected and boasts a wild vegetation that has been for years at the mercy of the rain and the sea winds. The park is not only endowed with plants but also with mysterious lilac flowers that creep through the sand and open every morning. To the east the park borders a beach which during the week is deserted and where nothing obstructs the view of the sea. There the sea seems more intensely blue, although in some parts it looks turquoise. In sunny days it melts with the sky.

            I got in the car with Max; the dog on its cushion on the right and I behind the wheel as always. It would be great if Max knew how to drive,  I thought more than once, so that I could distract myself looking out the window of the car like when I was a girl. We arrived at the deserted park since that Saturday we had woken up early and there was no one. After locking the car, we headed towards the entrance and began to walk the paths that we so often traveled together. That day the sea was somber; the clouds of water had turned it dark.

            I do not know if it was the drizzle or the deserted beach that prompted me to reflect on what had happened in recent weeks. Although loneliness is a good companion when you want to rearrange your thoughts, the sea is even better. Perhaps because it is constantly moving and feels alive. Or perhaps because so many times we were told that human beings are like the waves of the sea, separated but united.

            As I was pondering on these thoughts, it began to rain hard. With no tree to protect us from being wet, I decided to take refuge in the lifeguard's cabin. It was a small but cozy cottage. Inside there was only a table, a chair, several ropes and a dozen life jackets. Through the window overlooking the sea I could see the waves hoarding the sand on the beach. Maybe in the future they would end up hogging it completely, I thought; but, for now, I felt safe and secure in that transitory abode I had made mine.

            It is true that the last days had been difficult. That is how some of the relationships in our lives end. Actually, it is not a real ending, I said to myself; all that shares our life is always in transit. That is, it comes and goes. Like the waves, they approach us and then move away with the sea currents. Then new waves are born which, with their intact foam, caress us or listen to us cry. And so our friends also leave us because their road is another road, different from ours. Those who stay till the end are our road companions, but they are few and far between. The rest  we have to bless and let them go; what they came to teach us we have already learned. No more.

            The rain subsided slowly and the clouds began to disperse its blackness to let the sea wrap itself in turquoise. Once again the desert of fresh water had been my master with its quiet closeness. But it was time to go home to start the new cycle. Who knows what souls will come to me to travel this part of the way together. Who knows what messages they will bring me that I need to know. It does not matter. Whoever they are I will be here waiting

                                      

           

Saturday, July 29, 2017

CUENTO PRESENTADO AL CONCURSO  
UN MAR DE HISTORIAS
PATROCINADO POR ZENDA LIBROS

LA FUERZA DE LAS OLAS


            La mañana había amanecido nublada, pero no llovía. Del ropero de mi cuarto saque un par de pantalones negros y una camisa cualquiera ya que con el negro todo pega, y llevé las zapatillas a la cocina. Desde allí lo llamé a Max, el perro, para ponerle la correa y alistarlo para su tarea favorita: el paseo por el parque de la calle 84. El parque queda a unas veinte cuadras de mi casa, así que vamos en el coche hasta allí y luego caminamos.

            Lo que tiene de lindo el parque de la calle 84 es que está descuidado y ostenta una vegetación silvestre que ha estado por años a la merced de la lluvia y los vientos marinos. Pero no sólo plantas sino también se ven misteriosas flores color lila que se arrastran por la arena y se abren cada mañana. Al este el parque bordea una playa que durante la semana está desierta y donde nada obstruye la vista del mar. Allí el mar parece más azul, aunque en algunas partes se lo ve turquesa. En los días de sol se confunde con el cielo.

            Me subí al coche con Max; él sobre su cojín de la derecha y yo detrás del volante como siempre. Bueno sería, me dije más de una vez, que Max supiera manejar así yo podría distraerme mirando por la ventanilla del coche como cuando era chica. Llegamos al parque desierto ya que ese sábado nos habíamos despertado temprano y no había nadie. Después de cerrar el coche nos encaminamos hacia la entrada y empezamos a caminar por los senderos que tantas veces hemos recorrido juntos. Ese día el mar estaba oscuro; las nubes de agua lo habían vuelto sombrío.

            No sé si fue la llovizna o la playa desierta lo que me impulsó a reflexionar sobre lo ocurrido en las últimas semanas. Si bien la soledad es buena compañera cuando se quieren reordenar los pensamientos, a la orilla del mar es más fácil. Quizás porque el mar está en constante movimiento y se lo siente vivo. O quizás sea porque tantas veces nos dijeron que los seres humanos somos como las olas del mar, separados pero unidos.

            Estando yo sumida en mis reflexiones empezó a llover con fuerza. No habiendo ningún árbol cerca, decidí refugiarme en la casilla del bañero que estaba vacía. Era una cabaña pequeña pero acogedora. Adentro sólo se veían una mesa, una silla, varios cabos y una docena de salvavidas. Por la ventana que daba al mar pude notar como las olas acaparaban cada vez más la arena de la playa. Quizás en el futuro terminaran acaparándola por completo, me dije; pero, por ahora, me sentía segura y a salvo en esa morada transitoria que había hecho mía.

            Es cierto que los últimos días habían sido difíciles. Así son cuando algunas de las relaciones de nuestra vida se acaban. En realidad, nada se acaba, me dije, sino que todo aquello que nos acompaña en la vida transita. Es decir, viene y se va. Como las olas, se acercan y se alejan con la fuerza del mar. Luego vienen olas nuevas que, con su espuma intacta, nos acarician o nos escuchan llorar. Y así los amigos también se alejan porque el camino que recorren es otro, diferente al nuestro. Los que se quedan hasta el final son nuestros hermanos de ruta, pero no son tantos. A los otros tenemos que bendecirlos y dejarlos ir; lo que vinieron a enseñarnos ya lo hemos aprendido. No más.

            La lluvia se fue apaciguando poco a poco y las nubes empezaron a dispersar su negrura para dejar que el mar se envolviera de nuevo de turquesa. Una vez más el desierto de agua fresca había sido mi maestro con su silenciosa cercanía. Pero ya era hora de volver a casa para empezar el nuevo ciclo. Quién sabe qué almas llegaran hasta mí para recorrer juntas esta parte del camino. Quién sabe qué mensajes me traerán que necesito saber. Poco importa. Sean quienes fueren les doy la bienvenida.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

BEING COURTEOUS WON'T HURT YOU



“And what do we owe others during this process, during this unfolding journey we call our lives? We owe them courtesy, respect, support, and most of all the example of a mature, independent journey we ourselves have undertaken.” (James Hollis, Ph.D : Hauntings: Dispelling the Ghosts Who Run Our Lives.)

Hauntings by James Hollis must be one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read a lot of books through the years. This is a book about how to really grow up and become the people we are supposed to be in order for our lives to have a purpose. Our goal: be of service and be courteous to others. Although I had read Dr. Hollis’s work many years ago, something that happened in my life recently made me go back to review some of its concepts and I found the statement that I wrote at the beginning of this post very significant. Already Confucius in VI BC had stressed the importance of being courteous to our neighbors so that our social coexistence becomes harmonious and productive. Because I live in Miami, a city with a very aggressive traffic, when I am on the road I try my best to practice social courtesy by yielding to others and not tailgating the car in front of me. It amuses me to see the surprise on the face of the drivers whom I am yielding to and how it takes them a little time to react to my gesture and move on. But today I want to write about an incident I had with a friend of mine whom I have known for several years. If I have to describe this friend, I would say that she is an intelligent woman but who sometimes has difficulties controlling her bouts of anger. Since she has other positive personality traits that I like, years ago I decided that nobody is perfect and that I would try to ignore her sporadic lack of courtesy in my regard. I also need to add at this point that being an immigrant in the US limits my choice of friends because I know much less people here that I would in my country of origin. It is possible that in my country I would not have been with her as patient as I have been here. But going back to my friend –I will call her Myriam- we were both invited on a Friday evening to another friend’s home for dinner. As usual I got to the house on time and Myriam was not there.  Being late is one of her traits and this reminds me of a supervisor I had when I first started as a therapist who stated that people who are constantly late are very angry people. In this case her statement makes a lot of sense. That Friday night we were all having a glass of wine when Myriam suddenly rang the bell. The hostess’ daughter let her in and as she approached the kitchen with a bottle of wine I could see that familiar angry gaze that she so often displays. As she came in she started complaining about her day without even saying hello to neither me nor anybody else. After a little while we all proceeded towards the dining room to start dinner and while we were eating the conversation revolved around one of the cases Myriam was treating. Although her aggressive attitude made everybody feel very uncomfortable, I dared to ask her a clinical question about her case. Her reaction was so much out of proportion that I kept silent. Since I am not used to having hostile arguments during a friendly gathering, I stopped talking and let others take over. My friend’s tone of voice had not only silenced my words but had also reminded me of other situations in my life where I had felt disrespected and treated rudely. A deep sorrow pervaded me suddenly as I felt an urgent desire to leave and go home. Since I did not want to offend the hostess, I stayed until we were done with dinner and then found an excuse to leave early. While driving home I started asking myself how had I found myself in such a negative situation. I already knew the answer, but for many years I had refused to acknowledge it. It had finally hit me like a ton of bricks and there was no way to avoid it. That nobody is perfect had been a great excuse for the real reason of why I tolerated being mistreated. Fear of loneliness would have been a more accurate definition for my behavior. Today that I have finally overcome my longtime codependence, I can leave a room and go home and never go back to those who do not respect me. I am finally growing up.