The Starved Relationship

Matt-Head-ShotLast Thursday, Dr. Matt Townsend, a relationship expert, spoke to a group of survivors and caregivers at the Intermountain Medical Center. He presented life-changing skills with humor, teaching me how to improve my relationships in an entertaining way. I enjoyed his presentation so much that I’ve been listening to his many short videos on a variety of topics dealing with relationships while I work. If you like to listen to fun, uplifting, concise talks, you should check out his website.

A synopsis of what I learned from Matt is that life keeps changing and some experiences change the way we think and feel. Although our experiences may differ, we share feelings of: loss, sadness, insecurity, embarrassment, inadequacy, anxiety and/or depression at some time in our lives.

He quoted Carl Jung, a famous psychiatrist, “That which is most personal is most universal.”

Matt professionally counsels people for a wide range of challenges. Some have financial, fidelity, abuse and a variety of addictions. He calls these problems the smoke rather than the cause of the fire. He states we all have seven basic needs and we feel starved when those needs aren’t meet. When we feel starved, we don’t want to feed the other and the bond is broken, which ignites the fire.

We all want loyalty, happiness and honesty in a relationship. To feel joy and peace in a relationship we must feel:

  • Safe – including physical, financial, mental, emotional, social and spiritual safety
  • Trust – consisting of honesty and competence
  • Appreciation- hearing or seeing words of approval (remember it takes four positives to ease one negative comment)
  • Respect – showing through words and deeds
  • Validate – hearing what is said to understand without having to agree
  • Encourage – getting into the heart of your loved one and doing what you can to help them reach their goals
  • Dedication – committing to your relationship and making them feel more important than any place or thing.

Matt said trauma or health issues are the number one way to expand in these areas. We don’t grow unless we are pushed. We learn through our challenges.

Townsend Starved StuffWhen these basic needs are not met, we feel starved which makes it hard to fill your loved one’s needs. We all feel love and express love differently. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, describes how some of us feel love by: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. We tend to give love to another in the manner that speaks love to us. However, it is better expressed in the language your loved one speaks. Matt says his wife’s love language is acts of service. He vacuums or does another household chore and she’s appreciative. His love language is physical touch. They’ve tried holding hands while he vacuums, but that’s just too awkward.

To learn more about The 5 Love Languages and to discover your own love language, visit: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

GandhiWe all want loyalty, happiness and honesty in a relationship. To feel joy and peace, we must feed the relationship. “You must be the change you wish to see.”- Gandi

Matt is the founder and president of Townsend Relationship Center, a relationship skills-building organization.

To hear Dr. Matt Townsend’s presentation of The Starved Relationship see:

 

 

 

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The Advantages of Gratitude

Gratitude Unlocks.jpgLast Thursday I had the opportunity to speak to the caregivers of the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah support group. The title—Gratitude When You Don’t Feel Grateful.

I’ve been asked, “How long after the accident did it take you to feel grateful?”

gratitude-shortcutsOne of my first thoughts after I realized we had been hit and were pinned inside the wreckage of our car was, I’m grateful the kids aren’t with us. It was on a Saturday afternoon and we needed to make a final decision on which home to purchase. Fortunately, we left our two young children with my parents while we traveled to our three favorite homes one last time before making an offer. Looking at the back seat of the car makes it evident their chance of survival would have been near impossible. During the three months Mark was in a coma, I realized it could’ve been worse had our kids been with us.

I recognized the blessing right from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean I always see the positives and feel grateful. Sometimes my mind stumbles into a pity party where I’m entertaining thoughts of how Mark’s, mine and our children’s lives would have been if the accident never happened. Yes, at times I wish life could have turned out differently.

I suppose it’s human nature to feel this way, but before long I realized what a drag it is. When I recognize I’m staggering in self-pity, I remind myself what a waste of time and energy it is because all the wishing, worrying or feelings of regret do not change the situation. It only brings me down.

Some days are dark and worrisome, but the best way to pull myself out of discouragement and unhappiness is to turn my thoughts around by looking for the positives. Sometimes this is harder to do than other times, but I’ve learned it helps every time. When I consciously focus on the positive, I see the it in more situations. It gets easier with practice and before long my outlook on life changes for the better. I’ve learned I attract what I’m focused on.

As I recognize the positive interactions of family and friends, I can readily appreciate them for the love and support they give. The result is—they’re usually all the more helpful and loving. That isn’t the motivation for appreciating them, it’s just the way it works out.

gratitude-transformsWhen my kids were teenager’s I started a gratitude journal. It helped me get through a rough time. Every night I wrote down five things I was grateful for. Some nights it took a while to think of five things I appreciated. Knowing I needed five things to write each night encouraged me during the day to notice the positive in simple things and take mental note. This practice turned my discouragement into encouragement. It brought inner peace because I was focusing on the good instead of dwelling on the bad.

I don’t believe gratitude always comes naturally, which is another good reason to write down what we’re grateful for. In times of discouragement we can go back and read it. I found that remembrance really does help.

be-thankfulOne evening a few years ago, we were having a birthday celebration with my parents and siblings. The conversation centered on their travel destinations and the wonderful things their grandchildren were accomplishing—two things which are lacking from my life.

My mind traveled to that depressing pity party, with thoughts turned to all the places I’ve never been nor could possibly go to with Mark. I lost focus on how blessed I am to have my siblings who all live nearby and both my parents still alive. For an evening, I forgot how fortunate I am for the love and support we all share with one another. Instead of enjoying with them their experiences, I let ungratefulness take over my heart and mind. grateful-happiness

I didn’t live in thanksgiving that night, yet I know I’m happiest when I do. I believe gratitude is the key to happiness. I remind myself often to count my blessings so I can feel peace and contentment in my life. It works every time.

What hidden advantages do you feel gratitude brings to your life?

 

My Quest For Happiness

Serenity Prayer1I’ve been in a writer’s funk, not because I’m at a loss for words, but I’ve been feeling glum. Since the car accident, my birthday and wedding anniversaries cause me to reflect on life more as well as what I haven’t accomplished. I know I have a blessed life, but it isn’t anything like I’d expected. Many dreams have not become reality and life’s expectations go unfulfilled and it appears the clock is ticking faster and louder with each passing year. I’m realizing some of these wishes and goals may be unattainable under our circumstances. It’s hard to separate what’s worth striving for and what to give up on. I’m not getting any younger and Mark’s not getting any better. The realization of both sometimes overwhelms me to the point where I just want to hide under the covers until Mark can take care of himself. Some days are hard to face, but I make myself get out of bed and do it anyway.

I’d hoped that every year the adjustments would get easier. It did the first several years while Mark was progressing. Seven years after his traumatic brain injury he started having seizures, which brought new challenges. Every added year without the capacity to be physically active brings more difficulties.It appears we are getting older at a faster pace than most others our same age. The major health concern right now is Mark’s hips. I was able to put the worry aside for a few weeks while I focused on recovering from my hernia surgery. Now that’s behind me, it’s time to deal with the more serious matter.

Besides the pain, Mark no longer is capable of bending his hips at ninety degrees, which is the optimal bend for sitting. It makes sense to me that this inability to sit properly is causing his poor posture, which results in low back and neck pain every time he changes positions.

Twenty-two years ago, Mark had extra calcium buildup in both of his hip joints scrape out. We don’t regret that surgery because it gave him years of improved hip function, but now he has arthritis and lots of scar tissue, which is part of the problem. The only hope for possible improvement now is for two total hip replacements. Unfortunately, he’s not a great candidate for this surgery. Twenty-four years of physical inactivity and little weight-bearing ability are making his bones soft and brittle. There’s a worry of them breaking and the muscles being strong enough to hold the hip replacements. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. In order to make the right decision, which the responsibility to do so weighs heavily on my mind, we need more information. This means more doctor’s appointments and opinions.

You may wonder how a hip replacement can be beneficial for someone who doesn’t walk. Besides the sitting concern, which I’ve already explained and believe is contributing to his low back and neck pain; there is the issue of difficulty in transferring from one position to another. Getting him moved from his chair into bed, standing frame or shower/commode chair is tough because his hips don’t easily move. My cue for Mark before most transfers is, “nose over toes,” meaning lean forward because it makes the transfer so much easier. I didn’t realize until just recently that his hips will not allow him to bend forward. Think about the body mechanics of getting out of a chair. Usually, my hips bend about 120 degrees before standing. At best, Mark’s hips only have the ability to bend at eighty degrees, which means it’s a hard pull forward to get him up. A more recent problem is that after sitting for hours his hips don’t want to straighten up, which results in a second pull. Adding balance issues means he is a hard transfer and needs complete assistance to get from one spot to another.

I’ve been upset in the past because hospital nurses and aides are afraid of transferring Mark. I do it with little thought and haven’t realized how hard it is for someone who isn’t use to handling him. A few weeks ago, Mark’s shower/commode aide who was scheduled to come for six weeks during my recovery time, quit after nine visits. I’m still learning how hard it is to be a caregiver.

Nothing can drag me down faster than health worries. Sometimes I think it would be nice if someone else could live my life and take over my responsibilities. Maybe they would make better choices and do a better job. Since that’s not possible, there’s only one thing to do: press forward every day and do my best to find happiness along the way.

Happiness defined by Dictionary.com is “the quality or state of being happy; good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.” My good fortune is faith, family and friends. The love and support I feel from all three, brings me pleasure and contentment. What brings your happiness may differ from mine, but if we recognize what affects our joy and hold onto it by putting it first in our lives, we can more easily weather the storms.

I was reminded in church today that happiness is found by concentrating on what matters most. I made a list of what I thought makes me happy. It included a clean house, laundry completed, an organized desk, beautiful yard, exercise, a healthy diet and a well maintained vehicle. While looking at my list I realized these things bring peace of mind when they are done, but not lasting happiness. Then I noticed I didn’t list any recreational vehicles, or vacation spots. I thought, how strange, these things are dreams, which I’ve always imagined the beauty and enjoyable time bringing me happiness. It occurred to me it isn’t the places I go, or the toys I have that brings joy. It’s the people I’m with that matters the most. My good fortune is definitely family and friends. By recognizing and appreciating what I do have and giving love and care to the people who matter most, I can feel peace and contentment in my not-so-perfect life, finding true happiness.

Life Must Go On

With the tragedy of the car accident and Mark in a coma my life felt like it had stopped. One night Dad drove me to the grocery store to pick up some essential items. It was awkward to be amongst happy and carefree people who were walking up and down the aisles, chatting with another about what they needed to make delicious meals, or what they wanted as a treat. This common environment now seemed outlandish. Weren’t these people aware of the pain and trauma that was so prevalent at the hospital just a block away? I had become used to seeing individuals filled with worry and heartache; it seemed odd to be around healthy and happy people. I felt out of place.

I was grateful our children had school, homework, friends, and activities which kept them busy, yet it was difficult to support all their endeavors. Thankfully, I had family who helped. Near the last day of school there was a party for the children and parents which included dancing. I’ve always loved to dance, but now it took all the strength I could gather and to put a smile on my face a do a line dance with my child.

I bounced back and forth between a world full of tragedy, pain, illness and sorrow at the hospital to another full of pleasure, comfort, good health and happiness at home. I appreciated the reprieve from the hospital, yet it made me uncomfortable. It just didn’t feel right to be away from Mark.

My thirty-second birthday was six weeks after the accident. I wasn’t in the mood for celebrating, but it was a big day despite my feelings. At the hospital, Mark was lifted out of the floatation bed he was in due to a large blood clot in his right leg and strapped into a big white reclining wheelchair for the first time. His eyes were wide open with a terrified looked as they moved him from the bed. I thought he must be frightened by not having control over his body while being moved. He was upright for one hour three separate times that day, which felt like a giant step in the right direction. I even saw him move his fingers while he was sitting up, which brightened my day.

I came home to a kitchen decorated with balloons, cake and happy birthday signs made by the kids. After dinner and cake we were off to Christopher’s first Pinewood Derby Race. My dad had spent hours helping him make his car. I was grateful for the time he took to support and help make this race possible for Christopher. Two days before the accident Mark and I went to the Cub Scout meeting with Christopher where they passed out the pinewood box kit and talked about the race. Mark and Christopher were excited to work on the car together. While driving to Ogden that stormy tragic day, Mark told me all about the cars he’d made as a kid and how he looked forward to helping Christopher with his car. There was no doubt in my mind that Mark was as excited about this Pinewood Derby Race as our son was and the memory of our conversation hung over me like a dark cloud. I knew that if Mark was awake he’d be terribly disappointed he was missing out.

June 1991, Christopher & IExcitement filled the building as parents and children gathered for the big race. Despite the fact I was amongst family and friends, I felt as uncomfortable at the Pinewood Derby Race as I did at the grocery store or the school dance, but I knew life must go on and I didn’t want to deprive our kids of any happiness. I smiled and cheered for Christopher’s car as it zoomed down the track and beat every other car and finally took first place. I was thrilled for him, yet heart-broken for Mark. I watched Christopher get his trophy and we took smiling pictures, yet inside I was crying and I couldn’t help but wonder if Christopher was too. I was delighted that he won, yet grieving for his missing Dad. I felt torn between two different worlds causing opposites in emotions. It was a bitter sweet birthday with milestones happening in both the worlds I was living in. It was also the day I realized that no matter where I was life must go on.

Chris with Grandpa

Chris with Grandpa

Christopher’s winning smile

Christopher recieving 1st place

Receiving 1st place

 

Once again he wins the race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All bragging set aside. The red car wins by a landslide.

All bragging set aside. The red car wins by a landslide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1991 Pinewood Derby  1st place trophy

1991 Pinewood Derby
1st place trophy

My favorite part of the pinewood derby experience is the next time Christopher saw his dad after the race, he took his prize car and trophy to the hospital and gave them to him. The car and trophy stayed on the nightstand next to Mark’s bed during the many months of his next recovery stage at the rehab hospital. When Mark came home from the rehab hospital, I asked Christopher if he wanted to keep the car and trophy in his room now. He said, “No, I gave them to Dad.” To this day, nearly twenty-four years later, the car and trophy are still on the nightstand next to Mark’s bed. This token of love from a remarkable eight-year-old boy is still appreciated and the memory of it will be cherished forever.

 

A Blessing in Disguise

i_dream_of_jeannie-showThere is always plenty of work to do and the holiday season is no exception. Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, but a lot of work. After hours of preparation, there’s the cleanup. What about Christmas? There’s more preparation for parties, dinners, decorations, shopping for gifts and all of this is done after employment hours. Sometimes I wonder why we do so much. Work Bewitched1can be stressful, strenuous and difficult. During those times I’ve dreamed of a genie (pun intended) granting my wish for less work and more play. In my youth, I also loved to watch the fantasy comedy sitcom, Bewitched. I’ve thought how awesome it would be to have the magical ability to accomplish anything with a twitch of my nose, clap of my hands, or a snap of my finger and thumb, eliminating all the hard work.

Have you ever thought of work as a blessing? Usually I think of it as the means to provide for the necessities of life. Without work, how do you pay for, prepare for, or participate in recreational activities and vacation time? Everything takes work, including the fun times.

I didn’t realize the worth of work until after our car accident, which made it impossible for Mark to continue in the electrical career he was schooled and trained in. He dedicated twelve years to the trade and was successful, reaching the highest level as a master electrician. After eighteen months of rehab, he was anxious to get back to work. Realizing he wouldn’t be able to work as an electrician while in a wheelchair, he asked every day what he should do with his life. He said he needed to be productive to have self-worth and wanted a purpose for life. Work provides purpose.

It was hard to imagine what he could do or that any other kind of work could bring him the fulfilment the electrical field did. I tried to convince him that rehab was his job. His focus should be regaining his physical and speech abilities so that he could go back to work as an electrician. Two years passed and he continued with his rehab, having eye surgery to fix his double vision and two surgeries on his feet to correct the foot drop, which made it difficult for him to stand. He continued to ask often when he could go back to work. I hadn’t realized before how important work is for making life worthwhile. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have or what we can do until it’s no longer available.

We volunteered at our children’s elementary school twice a week, reading with the kids or helping with math and spelling. Mark enjoyed the kids, but sometimes they couldn’t understand him because of his speech impairment. Children are so honest and they would ask him often what happened to him or why he couldn’t walk or talk. These comments were probably harder on me than they were on Mark. I wanted to protect him and our own two children, wondering what questions and comments they had to endure. I was worried they might become discouraged or uncomfortable with our circumstances so I thought it would be best if we volunteer elsewhere.

After checking into options with our church, Mark was able to do some volunteer work at the Bishop’s Storehouse posting food orders in the computer twice a week. He also went to my brother-in-law’s family music store to stamp their logo on their sheet music at Day Murray Music. He enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to go to these places and volunteering his time, but he wanted to financially contribute to our family needs.

The next year brought two more surgeries to fix Mark’s hip joints, which were filled with calcium, making it impossible for him to bend at 90 degrees. With his sight still set on getting back to work, I heard Mark often rehearsing electrical codes or terms so he wouldn’t forget them. He wanted me to pay the fee to keep his Master’s License current, but he was willing and wanting to do any kind of work until he got back on his feet. I had a hard time envisioning him finding any kind of employment because he was dependent on me for most tasks of daily living such as dressing, transferring in/out of the wheelchair and transportation, but wanting to support his goals, we pursued Vocational Rehab.

Scan0101

Mark at work desk at Discover Card

The male crew in the mail room

He went through an intense week of testing. His I.Q. score was higher than normal, but his physical skills were low. The program helped place him in a part-time job at Discover Card. He did computer work recording P.I.N.’s (personal identification numbers) and enjoyed that job for eight years until they closed down the mail center. This was the appointed area for all the eight employees with special needs. They worked together with one supervisor who was trained to oversee and help each individual accomplish their job. Most of the special needs employees sorted the mail to the various departments and delivered them there. Mark worked on the computer, but because he needed help getting to and from the Paratransit bus to his desk, the restroom, lunchroom plus make sure he was stocked with the paperwork needed for his computer entries, his work desk was located in the mail room. He couldn’t do this job without the help of the supervisor. The group of special needs employees were devastated when they were replaced by equipment which sorted and delivered the mail to the various departments in 2004.

Discover Card mail room crew

2004 Discover Card mail room crew

What do we do now? I knew it would be hard to find a job where Mark would be safe and get the help he needed to accomplish work tasks. I also knew he wouldn’t be satisfied being at home every day without work. I learned the importance of work and realize its worth is so much more than the monetary value. Work brings happiness.

Work is a blessing in disguise. We may curse it and wish we had less of it to do. I no longer dreamed of a genie to lighten the work load, but rather one who could help us find work for Mark. I wished I could twitch my nose, clap my hands, or snap my finger and thumb and make a job appear.

On Tuesday I’ll share with you tips on how we found work for Mark.

Gratitude Is The Key To Happiness

GratitudeAfter I posted the article What To Do With The “What Ifs”,  I was asked, “How long after the accident did it take you to start counting your blessings? I started typing a long reply to the question and thought I should make it a Tuesday Tip.

My first thought after I realized we had been hit and were pinned inside the wreckage of our car was, I’m glad the kid’s aren’t with us. So I would have to say I counted my blessings, or recognized the positive, right from the beginning. However, that doesn’t mean I always see the positives and feel grateful. Sometimes I find myself in a pity party—wishing things would have turned out differently. I suppose it’s human nature. Yet when I’m feeling discouraged, I remind myself what a waste of time and energy it is because all the wishing, worrying or feelings of regret do not change the situation.

The best way for me to pull myself out of discouragement and unhappiness is to turn my thoughts around by looking for the positives, which creates a gratitude attitude. Sometimes this is harder to do than other times, but I’ve learned it helps every time. Some days are dark and worrisome, but when I start looking for the positives, more positives appear and my outlook on life changes for the better. I attract what I am focused on.

When I am focused on the positive interactions of family and friends, I can appreciate and recognize them for the love and support they give. The result is—they are usually all the more helpful and loving. That isn’t my motivation for appreciating them, it’s just the way if seems to work.

I don’t believe gratitude always comes naturally, but I try to make it a habit by having a positive attitude. When my kids were teenagers I started a gratitude journal. It really helped me get through a rough time. Every night I wrote down five things I was grateful for. Some nights it took a while for me to think of five things I appreciated, but it turned my discouragement into encouragement. It also brought inner peace because I was focusing on the good instead of dwelling on the bad. Another great aspect of writing in a gratitude journal or keeping a list of things I’m grateful for is that I can go back and read it in times of discouragement.  It really does help.

Gratitude makes what I have enough which brings peace and contentment, the key to happiness. I believe in and remind myself often to count my blessings and name them one by one.