Oct 05

“I’m Glad My Mom Died”: May Hit a Nerve

Former child actor Jennette McCurdy‘s bestselling new memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died has been notable not only for its popularity among readers but also for its title alone. She blatantly admits being happy her mother is dead? Who does that?!

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon:When the book debuted earlier this month [August 2022], it became an instant bestseller and sold out on Amazon. Its success revealed that there is a whole population of survivors who have complicated feelings toward our deceased relatives.”

In the following top quote from the book McCurdy, now 30, contemplates her abusive mom’s death:

I take a longer look at the words on her headstone.
Brave, kind, loyal, sweet, loving, graceful, strong, thoughtful, funny, genuine, hopeful, playful, insightful, and on and on…
Was she, though? Was she any of those things? The words make me angry. I can’t look at them any longer.
Why do we romanticize the dead? Why can’t we be honest about them?

Well, honesty about this is hard, but it does happen. Google the topic. You will definitely find others confessing a lack of sadness over their parents’ deaths.

I can tell you I’m glad my father died. It’s not that he was abusive, it’s that he just wasn’t there throughout my entire life. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me, so until he died he was already a ghost anyway—one who made my life challenging at times. (Explaining this further might involve a book’s worth of thoughts and feelings.)

It may be much harder for most to admit similar feelings about their Mother, though. That’s just a thing I probably don’t even have to explain.

McCurdy has done a lot of work on herself to get to the place of being able to write I’m Glad My Mom Died. Previously she had developed a one-woman show of the same title; she also does a podcast called Empty Inside. And, ta-da, she goes to therapy.

As the author told the Associated Press, therapy alone wasn’t cutting it, however. Putting together her show and doing her other writing have also been important. “Processing the events that happened in my childhood took so long in therapy. I needed to do so much of that excavating work on my own.”

Which is not to discount her therapy’s impact. Therapy has helped her significantly, for example, with her eating disorders. “…I don’t obsess about food at all. I say this because I want people to know that I do believe it’s possible to not have it haunt you for the rest of your life. I feel great in my recovery. I consider myself recovered. For anybody who might be struggling now, I want them to know it’s possible to recover.”

Are you grappling with the death of an abusive or toxic parent? Dr. , Certified Grief Counselor, has a pertinent article at Join Cake.

You might, of course, also be interested in I’m Glad My Mom Died. 

Aug 17

Solitude Vs. Loneliness: Two Nonfiction Books

Solitude is not necessarily about loneliness. It is, in fact, a condition that can be appreciated, cultivated, and enjoyed. Below are two nonfiction books that address the benefits of solitude.

I. How to Be Alone by Sara Maitland (2014)

Kate KellawayThe Guardian, asked Maitland the important question about the difference between solitude and loneliness: “Solitude is a description of a fact: you are on your own. Loneliness is a negative emotional response to it. People think they will be lonely and that is the problem – the expectation is also now a cultural assumption.”

Selected Quotes from How to Be Alone:

Most of us have a dream of doing something in particular which we have never been able to find anyone to do with us. And the answer is simple really: do it yourself.

Remember it is quite normal to be a bit frightened of being alone. Most of us grew up in a social environment that sent out the explicit message that solitude was bad for you: it was bad for your health (especially your mental health) and bad for your “character” too.

…(B)eing alone can be beneficial and it is certainly not detrimental to well-being, provided the individuals have freely chosen it. A good deal of the “scientific evidence” for the danger [of solitude] to physical and mental health comes from studies of people in solitary confinement.

II. Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris (2017)

Below Michael Harris offers “Five Ways Being Alone Will Improve Your Life” (Time). Click on the link for additional details.

  1.  Politics. Getting our news on social media doesn’t necessarily lend itself to increasing our understanding. “We all need time away from the red-faced online crowds if we want to consider the things they’re shouting. The radical thinkers of tomorrow will be people who know how to remove themselves from toxic pools of public discourse; they’ll be people who have mastered the art of moving back and forth, between crowd and solitude.”
  2. Daydreaming. “Studies show that, when the mind wanders, our brains activate what’s called a ‘default mode network.’ An intense series of brain functions go to work, despite the ‘blankness’ that the brain projects to us…While institutions continue to place an emphasis on concentration and collaboration, it’s worth asking why so many of our greatest artists and scientists make a habit of solitary walks in the woods or through city parks…”
  3. Culture Consumption. Instead of going with the mainstream film, book, and song suggestions that everyone else goes for, do we really know what we actually prefer? “We owe it to ourselves to step away from these crowd-fueled suggestions and foster our inner weirdos instead. What do you really like? There are stranger things waiting to be loved.”
  4. Wayfinding. Now using such tools as GPS and Google Maps, we tend not to get lost anymore. But “feeling wholly alone in an unforgiving landscape, might be better for us than we think.” It’s a skill that can be helpful. “Try taking a drive in a strange town without your phone. Try walking into the woods alone. When we get lost, we have a chance to find ourselves.”
  5. Relationships. “We cannot desire that which we already possess. Three-dimensional love must include periods of separation: as Rilke noted, ‘the highest task for a bond between two people [is] that each protects the solitude of the other’…Walking away from our phones, resisting the urge to Facebook-stalk our boyfriends and girlfriends, composing a single love letter instead of a hundred inconsequential texts, will shake up a relationship more than any ‘disruptive’ technology.”
Aug 10

“Set Boundaries, Find Peace”: Selected Quotes

Boundaries are expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships. Expectations in relationships help you stay mentally and emotionally well. Learning when to say no and when to say yes is also an essential part of feeling comfortable when interacting with others.  Nedra Glover Tawwab, Set Boundaries, Find Peace

Therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab has written a practical book about boundaries. In Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself (2021) she “identifies six types of boundaries—physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional, material, and time” (Publishers Weekly).

The following quotes will give you helpful ideas about how to set boundaries to improve your life.

Tell people what you need.

Assume that people know only what you tell them, honor only what you request, and can’t read your mind.

Setting limits won’t disrupt a healthy relationship.

Setting boundaries is not a betrayal of your family, friends, partner, work, or anyone or anything else.

Neglecting self-care is the first thing to happen when we get caught up in our desire to help others.

Avoidance is a passive-aggressive way of expressing that you are tired of showing up.

The ability to say no to yourself is a gift. If you can resist your urges, change your habits, and say yes to only what you deem truly meaningful, you’ll be practicing healthy self-boundaries. It’s your responsibility to care for yourself without excuses.

We can’t create more time, but we can do less, delegate, or ask for help.

…I say no to things I don’t like. I say no to things that don’t contribute to my growth. I say no to things that rob me of valuable time. I spend time around healthy people. I reduce my interactions with people who drain my energy. I protect my energy against people who threaten my sanity. I practice positive self-talk. I allow myself to feel and not judge my feelings. I forgive myself when I make a mistake. I actively cultivate the best version of myself. I turn off my phone when appropriate. I sleep when I’m tired. I mind my business. I make tough decisions because they’re healthy for me. I create space for activities that bring me joy. I say yes to activities that interest me despite my anxiety about trying them. I experience things alone instead of waiting for the “right” people to join me.

Those of us who are people-pleasers assume that others won’t like it when we advocate for what we want. Therefore, we pretend to go along in an effort to be accepted by others. But healthy people appreciate honesty and don’t abandon us if we say no.

Once you grow beyond pleasing others, setting your standards becomes easier. Not being liked by everyone is a small consequence when you consider the overall reward of healthier relationships.

Remember: there is no such thing as guilt-free boundary setting. If you want to minimize (not eliminate) guilt, change the way you think about the process. Stop thinking about boundaries as mean or wrong; start to believe that they’re a nonnegotiable part of healthy relationships, as well as a self-care and wellness practice.

Of course we have no way of knowing how someone else will respond to our assertiveness. When someone has a history of rage and anger, it’s understandable that we would avoid setting limits with that person. But we victimize ourselves further when we let our fear prevent us from doing what we need to do.

Jul 27

Soul Mates: Do You Believe in Them?

Do you believe in the concept of soul mates? If so, here are some views you may dislike:

I don’t believe in soul mates, not exactly. I think it’s ridiculous to think there’s only one person out there for us. What if your ‘soul mate’ lives in Zimbabwe? What if he dies young? I also think ‘two souls becoming one’ is ridiculous. You need to hold on to yourself. But I do believe in souls being in sync, souls that mirror each other.
Richelle Mead, Last Sacrifice

Nothing has produced more unhappiness than the concept of the soul mate. Frank Pittman (1935-2012), psychiatrist

There’s no such thing as a soulmate…and who would want there to be? I don’t want half of a shared soul. I want my own damn soul.”
Rachel Cohn, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List

But I’m not going to stop at listing these negative opinions—I’m going to add even more! Why? Because I too do not believe in the concept of having just one soul mate.

To my mind, the idea of finding one’s ‘soul mate’ has about as much basis in truth as the idea that each of us has a doppelganger (an ‘evil twin’) and that if we somehow chance to meet up, a bloody duel will surely ensue, because one of us must die. Shauna H. Springer, PhD, Psychology Today

Moreover, I don’t think believing in one does you any favors. From psychologist Bjarne Holmes‘s post “Why You Should Stop Searching for Your Soul Mate” (Psychology Today):

Research has quite clearly shown that a strong belief in destiny can actually be harmful to you and your relationship. Here’s why. Having the mentality of believing that you’ve found your soul mate is related to all kinds of unhealthy thinking about your love life.

One of the main issues is that believers in having just one soul mate might skimp on doing the work needed to keep their relationship going strong. Holmes offers some tips, which I’m paraphrasing below:

  • Practice and work make for an enduring bond; just having a belief in fated romance—or in finding your “soul mate”—doesn’t.
  • When you’re with a good match, time may indeed lead to feeling that this person is your “soul mate.” But that depth of feeling comes with communication, patience, understanding, and other relationship building blocks.
  • Other beliefs often related to the soul mate fallacy include that your partner can read your mind and that the great sex will last forever. No. Couples have to talk; mates have to continually nurture their relationship.

Where do you fit regarding belief in soul mates? Holmes links you to the following quiz: http://www.scienceofrelationships.com/home/2011/5/6/do-you-believe-in-soulmates-is-love-like-a-garden-take-the-q.html