Archive for September, 2013

Dear Joey,
My girlfriend has a male friend whom she has known a month longer than me. He lives [in another state] and has severe depression. He goes through these phases where he will get “needy” and constantly text or call her. I have expressed my dislike of this, since she really cannot be expected to devote all her time to him. A month ago he wouldn’t let her sleep with his constant calls. She feels that she is the only one who can help him through his suicidal thoughts. Before she met me she would cyber with him because he “needed” it. Now she won’t because she is with me in a relationship. He has starting asking for her to do that again and he has expressed a desire to have sex with her. She has pulled back some from him, not answering his texts as quickly and brushing off calling him unless he is really depressed. It is obvious I do not like the time she spends with him.

Here is the problem: she wants to go meet this guy. I am fearful what could happen. I don’t think she would integrally cheat on me, but with her depression, her mood swings and [other stuff] I don’t know what she might do. How should I feel about this?

What should I say?

Fearful Fella

Dear Fearful,

You owe it to yourself to be in a healthy relationship. You cannot forbid her not to be with this guy and the more he pushes her and she responds, the less healthy it is.

If she wants to go see this guy, she knows where it will go. This guy is an obvious user and that appeals to her somehow. You need to walk away until she figures this out. You don’t need to be the guy she’s physically closer to, but emotionally farther away from. Nobody wins that way.

(Before you walk away though, strongly suggest that this guy seek counseling and local help for his suicidal thoughts and depression. There are lots of free services out there he should be turning to, not to a girl who lives several states away. )

Please know that I think this guy is totally manipulating her. But distancing herself from him has to be her decision or else you are just going to end up with her resenting you or hiding it from you.

Of course, you may not listen to this advice because you may like broken, needy girls. Perhaps this is because you feel broken yourself. Do yourself a favor and become healed and healthy first – and look for others who are working on being healed and healthy too.

Wishing you love!
–Joey

Do you agree with me? Give your opinion in the comments section.

No More Moves

I’ve been playing this game of solitaire on my iPad mini. Sad to think that after a $300 purchase, this is what I use it for the most. However, I have noticed something.

Being a computer game, there are certain times when it will tell you that there are “no more moves”. Simply put, the computer has looked at the remaining cards left and is telling you to give up, there is just no chance you are going to win. The problem is, this isn’t always the case. In fact, quite often I have found that when the computer tells me there are no more moves, with a few simple rearrangements of the cards, I can actually win the game.

Now sometimes, the computer is right. There are no more moves that I can make and still win the game. So it’s not that the computer is actually broken, it’s just that sometimes the computer doesn’t realize that there are moves that it wouldn’t necessarily make, but a human can. It’s like a Spock and Kirk moment. What may seem illogical does not mean it is impossible.

I get a certain, Don Quixote stubborn satisfaction when I can overcome the computer’s prophecy of doom. Surprisingly, I don’t take it personally if it’s correct. I just move on and try again.

I hope that when I am struggling through my next challenge, and the voice of authority tells me I’m out of moves that I remember what my solitaire games taught me. Goodness knows I’ve played enough times, it would be nice to prove that it is educational!

Better for Breaking

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This year at Dragon*Con, I got to meet one of my childhood heroes, Lindsay Wagner who played Jaime Sommers aka The Bionic Woman.

I didn’t think meeting her would affect me so much. When I first entered the Walk of Fame (where all the celebrities gather to sell their autographs and memorabilia) and saw her sitting there, I felt myself starting to get teary-eyed.

Hi, I’m Joey.” I said. “I just want to thank you. When I was a little girl, and used to watch you, I just , well see I had 3rd degree burns and I had to go in the hospital a lot and in the afternoons I would watch your reruns and I had your doll house and it had the best bed and it was so much better than Barbie and I just knew that if you were better after your accident that maybe I was better too and I just . . . .(deep breath). . . Thank you.”

Her eyes were kind as she seemed to try to process all I said. She seemed so tiny and delicate in comparison to the larger-than-life part she had played in my impressionable imagination. Her handler was very sweet as she took my money and told me to choose a picture for Ms. Wagner to sign.

Lindsay stood up so we could snap a quick photo together and then shook my hand and said, “Thank you, Joey. Take care.

It was just a tiny moment in her day, but it really got me thinking about how the Bionic Woman is about surviving and being better than you were. She was broken, she died, and yet she came back and was better – and used what she had to help others. Not just with power, but with teaching others and sharing.

Later that day in her panel with Lee Majors, she talked a little bit about it. She really liked that her character’s show wasn’t just about what she could do with strength, but how she could solve the problem with her brain. It wasn’t just about her being bionic, it was about her having that woman’s instinct to survive and succeed.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Well, maybe. Or maybe, when you are broken is a great time to upgrade yourself. It’s a time to not just heal what was torn apart, but figure out how you can improve upon it.

When I say “you” – I of course mean me. I think it’s interesting that during metamorphosis, a crucial step in development often involves breaking through your protection and crawling to the next level. This is something that has to be done without help, or often the creature will be too weak and die. The actual act of breaking is what makes it strong enough to survive.

The bird has to break through their shell, the butterfly has to push through the cocoon. A baby kangaroo (a Joey) has to crawl from where it is first born up to its mother’s pouch (pocket) so that it can grow some more.

I’m not sure anymore which phase of growth I’m on – from birth to pouch, or pouch to being the new and improved Joey. I’m pretty sure I’m not part of a government experiment and equipped with bionic parts. But each time I feel like I’m about to break apart, I just try to keep my head down and concentrate on becoming as strong as I can.

I Do. (Well, He Did.)

Yesterday, I got to watch my oldest nephew marry his best friend. It was a beautiful ceremony.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Lenoir, NC my former boyfriend got married as well. I was surprised when I first realized he was getting married this weekend – I originally thought it was going to be in December.

To be honest, a part of me hoped it wouldn’t have happened at all. I often joke that I want him to be happy . . . mostly. The truth is, I really do want him to be happy. But I am concerned. It surprised me when he got engaged less than 4 months after we broke up, mostly because a major reason for our relationship ending was the fact that he had told me he didn’t want to get married at all. He didn’t even want to move in together.

It’s always tough to swallow the reality that it’s not that someone doesn’t want to get married, they just don’t want to get married to you. No one wants to feel that kind of rejection from someone they care about. It’s easy to wonder, “what’s wrong with me?” even though friends will be quick to point out that it is his loss and he’s the one who has something wrong with him. I appreciate the love from these friends – but it still stops and makes you wonder.

On the other hand, I do have a sort of survivor’s guilt when it comes to my ex-boyfriend. When we broke up, it was civil. There were tears, but there were also hugs. I was hurt that he had replaced me before ending it, and therefore preferred to have a clean break while I recovered and repaired myself and my heart.

Prior to our break-up, there were 6 of us that had a pretty special bond. 3 couples, each with at least one librarian in the mix, and we used to email and communicate daily and get together as often as we could. The first couple to move away eventually ended up in Texas, the other couple relocated to Raleigh, and then it was just he and I. I mean, we still got together with the others when we could, and emailed the others, but locally, there was just he and I. Our weekends were always spent together, most of our social activities were with my friends or The Charlotte Geeks.

So when we ended, a big part of his social life on a weekly basis was gone. He did have friends from his work that he got together with occasionally – but really, most of the past 5 years had been spent in the world of Geeks or just the two of us.

So a part of the psychologist side of me wonders if being with this new girl didn’t somehow make it more urgent that she replace his whole world – that not losing her became more important because he didn’t have much else for a while. And that maybe he rushed in to marriage with her rather than risk being left alone. And I worry that me cutting myself off from him might have played a small part in that.

I could be completely and utterly wrong. I hope I am. I hope that his decision to get married less than 9 months after we broke up is because she truly is what I evidently wasn’t – his soulmate.

As for me, a dear friend pointed out that although she hated that we ended, she felt that in the past year she got to know me better than she ever had when he and I were a couple. I know I’ve gotten to know myself better as well. I’ve had several stumbles in love – thinking I’d found something only to realize what was there was not right. But I’ve survived – I’ve made deeper friendships – and I’ve learned a little bit more about me. I’m not rushing in to anything that will jeopardize the good things that have resulted from our break up.

I hope someday that I get to say “I do” to a good man. I used to say I wasn’t interested in getting married again. In reality, I said that because I didn’t want to scare off men. At times, I think I want to swear off men, but nope – I don’t think I want that either.

Marriage is a good thing when it’s with the right one – I’m sure of that. I’ve seen it with some great couples I have known. As I continue to watch my nieces and nephews head down the aisle, I wish them love that holds fast through sickness and health, for better or for worse. Someday, I hope to find it too, and when I do – I know it will be because I took my time to make the right choice.

Lessons Julia Taught Me

I met Julia twenty years ago. I had left college after my junior year, found a job and a roommate, and taken a slight detour from the “chosen path.”

After a particularly horrendous Thanksgiving that included bounced checks, broken lamps, undercooked pumpkin bread and wretched food poisoning, I let my mom talk me into moving back to New England to share her house and start over.

My first weekend in town, I found myself at a matchbook-sized church with a tiny, round pastor and his tiny, round wife. They had heard from my mother that I could play piano, and without a pause to check the status of my soul, they ushered me to the front to coax “Amazing Grace” from the chilly keys.

Julia was there. We immediately hit it off, in spite of our 21 year age gap. We were both single, we were both starting over, we both enjoyed music. Julia played the flute and sang, and we would often sing/play duets for the church. We would go out for dinner and then chat for hours – both avoiding the lonely rooms at home.

Julia lived in a tiny apartment at the tip-top of an old Victorian house. It was barely 2 bedrooms, a napkin-sized kitchen, and a slanted hallway to a narrow bath. She had a roommate that seemed nice enough.

Julia helped me get a job. She worked in retail, I got a job at their corporate call center. Julia would have loved to work in the corporate call center, but she didn’t have the computer skills. I was able to juggle a full college schedule and work schedule. Julia would have loved to have gone back to college.

I got a promotion at work, and moved out on my own. Julia would have loved to move, but just couldn’t seem to land a job that paid her more.

I began dating and was soon engaged to be married. Julia started dating too. Fred was a very nice man, although a little bit of a fuddy duddy. But he loved Julia and she wasn’t as alone. They got engaged too.

I played the piano for her wedding in the tiny church where we had first met. I didn’t go there anymore, I’d outgrown it. But she didn’t seem to be able to let go.

Her roommate moved out and Fred moved in. She had hoped that they would be able to afford a bigger place together, but it just didn’t seem a good time.

I got married and moved in to a bigger apartment. Julia would often come to visit me – exclaiming over the room I had, and how comfortable my place was. She would often fall asleep sitting on my couch – the only place she said she could relax.

I’d try to help her make the changes she said she wanted. I tried to give her the courage to go out and get what she deserved. But the tiny pastor and the tiny church and the tiny apartment seemed to keep a tight grasp on her, and she couldn’t seem to break free.

My husband and I eventually bought a house – a cute little cottage at the bottom of a nicer-than-average street. Julia and Fred came to visit, although the drive took a little longer than normal. I’d make dinner, we’d sit and talk and have coffee, and Julia, relaxed, would fall asleep sitting on the couch with a smile on her face.

It was late August and Julia asked if she could come visit. She drove up and we had breakfast (pancakes) and then we just hung out all day – shopping, talking, laughing. She brought her flute and for the first time in a long time, we played and sang like we used to.

We chatted about our dreams – hers were the same as always: better job, bigger house, different life. I told her she just needed to go out and get it. She sighed and nodded, but didn’t seem so sure.

She napped on the couch while I did dishes, and then we had dinner and coffee and hugged and said we’d get together again soon.

Nine days later, her husband called me. Julia had strangled herself with a bungee cord in their tiny little apartment. He broke down in tears, and in his grief, blamed me for not being a better friend. I know he didn’t mean it. The family had decided to keep her suicide a secret, they felt she would not have wanted it known. I think for them it was just easier to pretend.

I went to her wake – but the body in the box was not my Julia. Her family had dressed her in this horrible outfit – the only one they could fit on her bloated body. She would have been mortified. And like the tiny apartment and tiny life she was trying to get free from, she seemed cramped in the coffin box they had put her in.

Her tiny pastor grasped my hands and asked me if I would play and sing for her funeral. I nodded my head yes, knowing that there was no one else to play. My husband couldn’t take the time off work, so the next day I drove alone down to the funeral.

Like a movie, it was rainy and dreary. The little church was full to capacity, although it didn’t take many people to fill it. I had practiced a song to sing for Julia, but when I told the pastor my selection he shook his head. “Fred wants you to sing the one you used to always perform together.”

How could I say no? Her grieving husband making a final request? I nodded my head yes. But there is nothing more depressing than a duet sung by only one.

As I made the way to the piano, I realized that they had to switch things around to make room. The piano, which usually faced the pulpit, now faced the wall. And Julia’s coffin was now directly behind me as I played.
Somehow I got through the playing and the singing, the people wanting to offer sorry and shock at her “sudden death” and not being able to tell them the real reason. I decided not to go the cemetery – I couldn’t stomach seeing my friend lowered in to the ground. I made the drive home wondering what I could have done differently, grieving the loss of a dear friend.

I felt sorry for Julia, and sorry for myself. The next day I called my assistant and told her I was not going in to work – and spent the morning restless in bed, all the memories flooding through my brain. I wanted to be angry at her for taking her life instead of taking the chance to improve it – but the grief and sorrow were too much.

I turned on the TV and watched in horror as the second plane crashed in to the World Trade Center.

The rest of the day was one lived in shock. One friend called to see if I had seen the news– and we sat in silence on the phone as we watched everything continue to unfold. Another friend buzzed in and asked if I had heard from my friend Beth, a flight attendant assigned to Flight 11. It took us over 13 hours to find out that she had been unexpectedly re-routed from her scheduled flight to have her air safety training certificate renewed and was driving back in a van from Oklahoma. My husband was evacuated from his office just outside Boston – they evacuated everyone who worked in a building with more than 4 floors, just in case. My church planned a candlelight vigil for later in the week. The phones and the television were not silent all day.

It was only later that night that I thought on Julia again. Although suicide is not something I agree with, I realized my anger had refocused. The juxtaposition of her decision to take her own life in contrast to the thousands who had that choice to live or die taken from them gave me perspective. I still miss her, I still wish things had happened differently, I still wish I could have helped her take that leap of faith to a better life and helped her not to choose death. But she did choose, and I had to let it go.

Every day we get to make choices is a day of freedom. Not having a choice is the biggest tragedy, and I am thankful for the right to choose.