Brief Thoughts on Aging and the Term “Old”

I understand how the term “old” is subjective for many and age being viewed as “just a number.” But, I think it’s healthy and important to reclaim “old” as not meaning something to feel afraid and/or ashamed of. It seems many people believe old to mean one is definitely about to croak and/or rendered irrelevant. Neither is true. And those who are ageist can be educated, if they’re open, or otherwise left alone to isolate in their ageism. Technically, I’m middle aged but, if I’m fortunate enough, I’ll manage to grow old. At that point in time, I intend to celebrate living into old age, whenever that happens to be. Growing older and wiser is the track I’m on, which includes being committed to staying healthy as best I can for as long as possible. Celebrating life every day is important, and not just when you’re young. My quality of life has only improved with age. I wish that to be the case for everyone.

On Sobriety and How Less Is Often More

I started abusing alcohol on a steady basis late in life, a few months after turning fifty, to be precise. This coincided with finally “making it.” My husband and I had just bought our own condo. and I was a few years into having my own successful private psychotherapy practice. It all came together, including living near a vibrant town center with a lovely bar and restaurant where I’d hang out with some colleagues and even made a few new friends. For almost five years, I was riding this gravy train of “making it,” lubricated along with wine and mixed drinks, especially on weekends but on my one day off during the week too. In my own way, I was luxuriating after years of having less, believing, a lot of that time, that I didn’t deserve much. I’ve since learned, after letting go of drinking (now over a year ago), that, often in many instances, less is actually more. No alcohol has meant more health and well-being for me and my husband. And there are so many other ways to meet each day in celebration of having “made it.”

Here’s to everyone who’s alive and meeting each day. You’re here. You made it this far and, to those I actually know and like, I’m so glad we’re friends, family, and/or somehow associates in life. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

On Loyalty Binds

From the MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY, this is what is said about the word “loyalty”: “Loyalty implies a faithfulness that is steadfast in the face of any temptation to renounce, desert, or betray.”

The quality of loyalty can be expressed towards another person, a country, a team of some sort, a product brand, etc. The relational context I am particularly concerned with here is between people. An individual can find themself in a bind of loyalty between two other parties whereby they feel somehow pressured to be less connected to one party than the other. Inner feeling states of anxiety and, often, guilt, arise over the sense that they will be somehow betraying one person over another by being also in positive connection with that other. A common example is when a child feels they are betraying their biological parent if they develop a close bond with their other bio. parent’s new spouse/life partner. And that bio. parent may or may not indeed be putting external pressure, however subtle/nuanced, on their child to not become close to the stepparent. Unprompted, children, in their bond with each of their birth parents, tend to already feel internally like they are somehow abandoning their parent(s) by developing closeness with their new stepparent(s). As a young child, I was in a loyalty bind between my bio. mother and former step/foster mother, then, much later as an adult, for a while between my former step/foster mom and current stepmother. Loyalty binds in blended/step families can and do occur for adult children as well.

That all said, loyalty binds can show up between friendships and coworkers, among other social contexts. Some people can be possessive and expect loyalty to them to mean loyalty to another/others has to be less or non-existent. The factors and situations where these binds arise are hard to quantify. Some people can carry around an internalized sense of loyalty binds where none exist, particularly if they grew up experiencing a loyalty bind within their family of origin and/or with a very close friend.

Try and be aware of loyalty binds that arise for people, both actual ones and for people who have an internalized sense of them as automatically accompanying any efforts to be close to more than one person within a social context. As discussed above, these commonly, likely inevitably, occur within blended/step families, such as within my own family of origin. But, these challenges can and do happen in other types of relationships as well. Patience, compassion, and curiosity are good to practice with ourselves and others in these situations.

Internal Family Systems trained family therapist Patricia Papernow is a compassionate and eloquent expert on loyalty binds within step/blended families and on other unique dynamics that arise within these types of family systems. To inform and deepen my work with individuals coping with an array of family histories and challenges, I will be reading her book Surviving And Thriving In Stepfamily Relationships: What Works And What Doesn’t.

“Healing Happens in Relationship.”

My undergrad. clinical and humanistic psychology professor at UC Santa Cruz, Ralph Quinn, said on more than one occasion, “Healing happens in relationship.” He included here a relationship with a higher power besides with another person or people. By extension, I think this certainly can and does apply to a connection one has with a pet, a wild animal, or with all or part of nature for that matter.

(Photo accompanying this post by Sebastian Arie Voortman.)

On Outgrowing Relationships and Experiencing Unconditional Love

A little earlier, over on Facebook, I wrote about how, sometimes, one outgrows a relationship, be it romantic, familial, a friendship, whichever. It isn’t healthy to try and remain in it out of guilt and obligation and/or fear. (I am excluding here those people who are in tenuous circumstances where leaving a problematic relationship is not an immediate option. Privilege and power differentials within and between parties are so often major factors.)

In response, a certain friend replied: “Life is not like a Hallmark movie. Most of the time we spend a ‘moment’ in time with someone. It does not diminish that relationship if it was not FOREVER. Unconditional love is a misnomer.”

I found this response of his interesting and thought-provoking. I replied by saying how I try my best to practice holding and sending compassion for others, including those I have moved on from and them from me. I went on to explain that I think unconditional love can be selectively practiced over those closest to us who we do not grow apart from.

I myself never experienced unconditional love growing up or into most of my adulthood, until I met my husband. Now, I’m experiencing what feels like that between him and myself, though it has definitely had to develop. It’s not about the romantic, passionate “fireworks” feeling, sensation, and thought states. Unconditional love for someone is a comparatively calmer, deeper emotional-sensory inner experience arising from having a sustained, safe outer connection with another, who congruently shares a similar inner emotional-sensory experience with the other. All of this phenomena goes beyond words.

This kind of love comes from one’s core, true Self. For most if not all of us, accessing our own Self takes a steady practice over time, informed by our own personal histories.

Movie Review (ESTEROS)

Like many people, I watch movies for various reasons in addition to being entertained. Over the past few years, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have spent a lot of time in my home streaming movies, many of them indies, including ones about gay-oriented love relationships. Recently, it grew crystal clear to me that the adolescent and young man parts of me, these each being who I once was so many years ago, long to witness positive, loving relationships between boys and young men. The physicality of sex as an aspect of that expression of love has been important to see, though prolonged, anatomically graphic detail are not needed. It is more about viewing a balance of warm affection and passion that matter to these younger parts of myself.

I spent my youth longing for, yet fearing and generally avoiding, emotionally-laden physical intimacy with other male peers, a deep-rooted issue stemming from an unstable childhood that I’ve been actively healing for a good while. My husband’s presence in my life since my early forties has been deeply helpful. But, another part of that healing process has been to watch tender, affirming movies about love between adolescent and twenty-something males. Less often, I have also found it satisfying to watch love stories about men older than that age cohort.

A movie in this category of affirming emotional and physical love between young males I most recently viewed is ESTEROS (released in 2016), a warm and thoughtful Argentinian production, directed by Papu Curotto. The story is a simple and beautiful narrative, encapsulated in just eighty-seven minutes. Filmed back and forth in present day and flashback scenes, the movie stars Ignacio Rogers as the adult Matias, Esteban Masturini (adult Jeronimo or “Jero”), Joaquin Parada (pubescent Matias), and Blas Finardi Niz (pubescent Jero). The footage of the two sets of actors seems almost equal, with probably a little more of it featuring the two main characters in adulthood.

After about ten to twelve years of absence from each other’s lives, previously best childhood friends Matias and Jero unexpectedly meet up in a small city, the name of it eluding me. Matias, who lives with his girlfriend, has recently returned to Argentina after having resided in Brazil with his parents since about aged thirteen. The family had left for there due to Matias’ father pursuing a major employment opportunity. Soon, the two young men figure out who the other is and resume their friendship. Sexual and romantic tension between them immediately returns, with Jero taking the lead on expressing this chemistry, as he had originally done when he was twelve or thirteen.

The natural playfulness and comfort between the two boy actors, Parada and Finardi Niz, immediately sets for us viewers a tone of believable pubescent innocence, curiosity, and slowly building passion. Their on-screen chemistry matches that of the young adults, Rogers and Masturini, and steadily builds in intensity at a graceful, credible pace. Pure cinematic alchemy gets created by these four principal personae and their excellent direction. The writing, which is quite simple but succinct and good, adds to this alchemy. None of these males ever seem to waver in screen presence and ability. They are all well supported by a solidly competent rest of the cast, although I admittedly didn’t feel the need to notice and care that much, due to the compelling power of the main four.

I would add that the fifth principal player or presence in ESTEROS (ESTUARIES in English) is the Argentinian countryside, particularly an area of estuaries that abut a farm owned by Jero’s parents. This is the summer getaway the boys go to and begin to explore their romantic feelings for each other, which Jero initiates between them one evening in a bedroom they share. The estuary water, accompanying mud, and wildlife, including verbal references to alligators (or crocodiles? I believe alligators), which we viewers never actually see, underscores the sense of intriguing, somewhat unpredictable, even scary sensuality flowing between Matias and Jero. The former is fearful and uncertain while the latter of the two is clearly more of an early bloomer with his sexual interest and confidence. Such is often the case between and among peers.

The movie’s predictable but believable love triangle is an added layer of tension between Jero’s readiness and Matias’ hesitancy. The latter’s girlfriend, Rochi (Renata Calmon) plays, sadly, an all-too-common, thankless role of unknowingly aiding him in trying to be completely heterosexual, which Matias is not and never was. Thankfully, her character is respectfully, sensitively written as having an intuitive sense that something is very much not right. Matias is not fully present and interested in her as he should be. And so a classic dance of intimacy unfolds, quite beautifully, with all players stepping along through their parts in a mix of relatable struggle and grace.

On Letting Go of Non-Resonating Energy From Others

I have experienced wonderful healing recently via sessions with an energy and sound healer, Katie Rose of Rose Energetics in Killeen, TX (her link here: https://roseenergetics.com). Regardless of what you may think and feel about the legitimacy and value of such a modality, one generally useful nugget of wisdom I’ve found helpful is Ms. Rose’s well-stated truth that not everyone’s energy resonates with one’s own. This doesn’t mean that all or part of another’s energy is bad, it just means it’s not always right for someone else, such as myself. It is simply non-resonant/non-resonating. And vice versa, of course, is the case with my energy not always resonating well for others. This has been so affirming and releasing.

The implications of this understanding are powerful. No longer do I feel the need, out of guilt or some other negative motivator, to remain engaged with non-resonant energy of someone in my personal life anymore, ever. And I don’t need to pursue trying to make my energy resonate with someone else’s. It has been so freeing to clear away this old habit of tolerating and engaging with non-resonant energy(ies) from others. Letting go of or avoiding non-resonating engagement in the first place can and should be un-coupled with polarizing/demonizing a non-resonant other. That is a more nuanced, newer insight I have been coming to.

I have been integrating all this for a good while now, but Ms. Rose’s wisdom (which is not hers alone) has basically cinched the deal, so to speak, further embedding in me this healthy outlook and way of engaging in the world. And I most certainly help my clients come to all this understanding for themselves as well. Now, I’ve got some additional helpful language and subsequent perspective to offer.

Skinny Men Are Beautiful and So Is Any Body Type

The photo is of actor Timothee Chalamet in BRITISH VOGUE Magazine, 2022. Not only do I think he’s beautiful, I find it so affirming to see a naturally thin, dare I say skinny, young man playfully posing, show-cased as beautiful. I too was once young and very thin and would have loved back then to have seen this kind of male imagery being respectfully, joyfully highlighted everywhere.

Everyone needs to witness affirming imagery of their own unique body type, not just a very select few types (namely skinny women and buffed up men) being glorified everywhere over and over again.