Stephen Crippen Therapy

A blog about you (and me) by Stephen Crippen.

Archive for the ‘Fun on Fridays’ Category

“Unhealthy Pop Song Lyrics” is back!

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Years ago, I ran a little blog series about unhealthy pop-song lyrics. I don’t know why I stopped…maybe because the series was a little corny, or because it felt like shooting fish in a barrel. (So many pop songs encourage unhealthy relationship attachments, I now think that’s their purpose.)

But hey, it’s Friday, the sun’s out in Seattle, and I’m in the mood. I’m also desperately hoping my critique of this song will satisfy the ear-worm god and get it out of my head, where it’s been on a constant loop since seeing an ad the other day for the re-released “Titanic” movie.

That’s right, it’s time to poke some therapeutic fun at that Celine Dion chestnut you love to hate. Here it is, with my, um, reflections below it:

“Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on
Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never let go till we’re gone
Love was when I loved you
One true time I hold to
In my life we’ll always go on
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
You’re here, there’s nothing I fear
And I know that my heart will go on
We’ll stay forever this way
You are safe in my heart
And my heart will go on and on”

Allrighty then! Let’s see. It’s…not that bad, actually. She loves him, she will always love him, it doesn’t matter that he drowned in the north Atlantic, love is forever. Okay. I remember in the film she went on to have a great life, so I can’t scold her for endlessly pining for the dead Leo and missing out on the richness of life. I think she even married and had kids, right? But I have a couple of complaints about these lyrics.

First, if you’re going to make a boatload of money writing an iconic song for a blockbuster movie, can’t you come up with something better than, “Love was when I loved you”? Really? But my quarrel with this song runs deeper than the vapid lyrics in the later verses, and maybe the song’s flaw is the reason its later verses are so stale: sorry, Rose and Jack, but love doesn’t “go on” forever, at least without changing a great deal.

I believe in loving relationships that last for decades. I don’t have to “believe in” them, actually, because I’ve observed them directly. I have friends approaching their 65th wedding anniversary this summer, and they’re having a delightful ride. I’m also aware that love for someone who died can last a lifetime: I’m closing in on 16 years of love for my departed mother. But love changes. Sorry, but there’s no way Rose can feel the same way for Jack when she’s in her dotage and has lived a full life without him. Grief and love have this in common (which makes sense, because grief is a function of love): they evolve. It’s been a long time since I’ve sobbed with grief about my mother. In some ways I grieve her more deeply now than I did in the months after she died. I’ve had more time to appreciate the tragedy of her not being there for major events in my life, and for the final third of her own. But it’s just a fantasy in James Cameron’s XXL head that human beings could sustain the same breathless love, or the same powerful grief, for someone who has departed from their life.

Oh, and while I understand poor Rose’s need to have Jack “go on” even though he has died, and I wouldn’t want to say this out loud at Jack’s funeral, I’ll say here that the departure of someone from your life—whatever your beliefs about immortality, or notions about people “living on in our hearts”—means that in ways that hit you in the gut, they really are gone. Not “gone.” Gone. And the discovery that you can love again, completely and deeply, is part of a healthy recovery. My mother died, but motherhood didn’t. Jack died, but marital love didn’t. Rose’s love “goes on” for Jack, and that’s sweet. But—sorry, Celine—Rose also moved on.

Dammit, it didn’t work. That song is still in my head.

Both Sides Now

Friday, September 25th, 2009

It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at pop-song lyrics from a therapist’s perspective. Here’s an example from over a year ago. Today I’m looking at a song I love. It’s a great song, and I won’t believe you if you tell me you don’t like it! It’s Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” The lyrics are copied below.

First, I want to talk about what I like about the words. I like the way she looks at love–and life–from at least two perspectives. (Of course that’s the whole point of the song.) This song offers a substantially better treatment of these topics than, say, this ridiculous song. It’s a poignant reflection on disillusionment, loss, and regret. Most people I know–both personally and professionally–would do well to reflect on the emotional wounds they’ve suffered, and if they’re in a mood to reflect, I can hardly think of a better companion for them than Joni Mitchell.

But I don’t want this song to be the last word on these matters. I would never want Joni to write a happy verse at the end that wraps it all up in a nice, reassuring bow. That would ruin the song and cheapen the difficult emotional process that is limned by the text. But my wish for anyone who’s facing this kind of sadness is that at some point they would reach a point of integration. They may never fully resolve–much less “get over”–what has happened to them. But I hope they can integrate it into their lives, and move forward with wisdom. When I reach the end of this song, I long for another verse that takes us all further in that direction.

But as I said, it’s a terrific song! Enjoy it, and may you continue moving forward in your own story of life and love.

Both Sides Now, by Joni Mitchell

Rows and flows of angel hair
Ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say I love you right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

It’s Friday…time for dog fun

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I try not to be completely serious on this blog, even though (and perhaps because) the work I do is quite serious. So without further ado, let’s talk about my puppy dogs! Hoku’ala is nearly 19 weeks old now–old enough that counting his age in weeks is getting a little silly. It’s easier to understand that he’s 4-1/2 months old. We thought he was going to be a red sesame Shiba, but over the past few weeks nearly all of his dark fur has given way to the same beautiful red color of Stella, our older Shiba.

Hoku is (like all dogs) his own personality, his own presence, in the house. At the same time, my fear that he would have a much darker personality than Hoshi (who died in April) was unfounded. In short, Hoku is a hoot. Highly friendly, energetic, sweet…and yes, I know he’s still a puppy, but Stella was this way when she was a pup, and she’s pretty great.

In contrast to Hoshi, who suffered heart disease, Hoku is growing pretty big, and he’s a bit more headstrong. We’re pretty sure it’s because he can afford it: unburdened by a physical setback, he can be a lot more feisty. In the picture below, he’s sitting on Stella’s throne–sorry, the front loveseat–while she suns herself in the backyard. Very daring of him!

Stella, for her part, seems to be enjoying Hoku’ala, even though she had a lovely quiet two months between Hoshi’s departure and Hoku’s arrival. At first, from Stella’s point of view, Hoku was just an annoying puppy. But now he’s her annoying puppy!

Enjoy the photo (and click on it for a better view), and if you have animals in your life, enjoy them too! Happy Friday.

Write your grandma!

Friday, July 31st, 2009

The other day I posted about an advice columnist who addressed the issue of thank-you cards: should we expect them when we give gifts? Should we tell someone that their failure to write one was offensive?

So I smiled when I saw this cartoon (below). As a dog lover, I can understand the sentiment–if not the practicality–of giving your inheritance to a dog. In any case, it never hurts to stay in touch with those you love.

Here’s to a good Friday with cooler temperatures!

(Oh, and to see the image in a larger format, just click on it.)

You’re raising adults

Friday, July 10th, 2009

These days, I mostly work with adult individuals and couples. But I occasionally work with adolescents, and often I work with parents who are grappling with the adventures (and misadventures) of their children. And one bumper-sticker phrase I like to use in my work with them is, “You’re not raising kids. You’re raising adults.”

What I mean is, you’re raising your son or daughter to be an adult, not a child. So limit-setting, boundaries, the occasional “no” answer, and (maybe most painfully) exposure to the difficult, dangerous world is all part of normal human growth and development. It’s natural to want to protect your child from the world–to create an ideal environment, a lock-and-key universe that prevents all bad things from happening to your child, everything from inappropriate TV shows to unkind neighbors to summer camp. And it’s also natural to fear that when something bad does happen to your child, your child is permanently damaged by the trauma. Sometimes the damage can be severe, but most of the time the bumps and bruises of life are essential for the developing human in your care to become a functional adult.

So if you as a parent are afflicted by this kind of anxiety, take a deep breath. Remember that you’re raising a child to become an adult, and therefore the young person in your care is an adult-in-progress, an adult-under-construction. Do all you can to provide safety, security, and a generally right-side-up world. But don’t sweat it. When things go haywire, that’s often enough a key dimension of your child’s developing story as a resilient, competent adult.

And because it’s Friday, sunny, and summertime, I’ll close in a silly way. Right now I’m not raising a human child, but rather a dog who currently happens to be a 12-week-old puppy. And today I thought to myself, “I’m raising a dog, not a puppy,” because today Hoku’s ears started sticking up permanently (or semi-permanently… they still flop down now and again). It’s one of those tiny little losses you suffer. No more floppy ears! But it feels right all the same. We’re raising an adult dog, and he’ll need strong, alert ears! Click on the photo for a closer look, and happy Friday.

Mental health break

Friday, June 26th, 2009

I got the title (and the idea) of a “Mental health break” post from one of my favorite bloggers, Andrew Sullivan. Most of the time his blog is pretty serious and intense–these days he’s covering the crisis in Iran–so every once in a while he has fun and posts a funny ad, video, or story. It won’t surprise anyone who knows me that my mental health break today is a photo of our second (well, third) dog, Hoku’ala. I’m not a skilled photographer, so I was astonished when I saw this. It’s one of those once-in-a-puppyhood photographs! Click on the photo for a larger view. Enjoy, and happy Friday!

Phoebe’s fire alarm

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Oh, the joys of running your own business. The smoke detector outside my office has a low battery, so I took it off the ceiling and took out the dead battery … and it’s still beeping at me! I am living this nightmare. Enjoy the video while I run to the store and get a new 9-volt for this noisy [bleep]!

Mental health break

Friday, March 27th, 2009

I got this idea from Andrew Sullivan‘s blog–every once in a while, I’ll post something fun, off-topic, hilarious, or beautiful. Especially on Fridays. Here’s today’s: a great new column ($) by David Sedaris in the New Yorker.

A no good very bad children’s book

Friday, February 13th, 2009

I hope I don’t step on your toes by saying this, but I don’t like Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” It’s a story about a little boy and a tree, and it is a cautionary tale for anyone who wants to know what an unhealthy relationship looks like! Let’s take a look:

The tree and the boy love each other, and the story follows them as they share their love. The little boy loves to climb the tree, swing from her boughs, and rest in her shade. The tree simply loves to be with the boy, to share her life with him.

So far, so good.

But then the tree and the boy both make some unfortunate choices. When the boy grows older and needs a house, the tree offers her branches for lumber. When the boy wants to go away on an adventure, she gives her trunk for a boat. Finally, when the boy returns from his adventure–now an old man–the tree is nothing but a stump, and she feels sorry that she has nothing left to offer the boy. But he realizes that she can still give him one thing: he sits on her, and rests, and the tree is happy again.

Oh boy! There are some problems in this relationship. For one thing, the tree can’t be a tree in her relationship with the boy. She has to diminish herself to stay connected to him. Each time he comes to her, she feels compelled to give him something, and she gives in to this feeling every time. You could argue that she receives a gift in her giving…she feels useful, she is gratified that she can help him, she is delighted that she can express her love in such clear ways. Well, OK…but the fact remains that the core of their relationship is her giving him things. Now don’t get me wrong: gifts are good, giving is good, and there’s nothing inherently wrong in the tree’s affection for the boy, or her urge to relate to him with a giving spirit. But you can see how she took this good thing too far–so far that she destroyed herself.

And consider the boy, who is called a “little boy” even when he’s an old man. (This is a telling detail.) He doesn’t have an adult relationship with the tree. For instance, when she offers him her branches, it doesn’t occur to the boy how self-destructive this gift is. To accept it is to agree to a transaction that destroys the tree. Doesn’t sound very loving to me. And it only gets worse: to meet his own needs, he allows the tree to be chopped down to a stump. Ouch. It would be harder for him to refuse these gifts, harder not just because he would have to make more of an effort to meet his own needs, but also because it’s always hard to refuse a gift that is motivated by kindness but is nevertheless unhealthy, unwise. Imagine telling your partner, no, I cannot accept your gift. I appreciate your kindness, but I have to meet this need myself. Only full-grown men and women can do that!

My alternate story of the Giving Tree would go something like this: the boy and the tree would love each other, the boy playing in her branches, the tree enjoying the boy’s fun presence. Later, as the boy became a man, he would meet a human companion, also full-grown, and together they would live out their lives in the shade of the tree, relating to one another–and the tree–with reverence, with respect. And now and then, all three of them would meet their own needs. That’s what I would call a “happily ever after” story.

Why I love bad weather

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Here in Seattle we’re waiting in the cold for the next snowstorm, due to arrive tomorrow night. It’s a bummer because it’s the last Saturday night before Christmas, and I for one was very excited about a holiday party, a traditional bash thrown by friends of mine, and now sadly the party has been cancelled. Why couldn’t the storm come late on Monday night instead?

But I do love bad weather, or I should say mid-week bad weather. It does things that need to be done. It shakes up our lives. It reminds us that we are small, finite beings. It reminds us that our work schedules are not as important as we think they are. It calls out the fun-loving child in all of us. It shows us nature’s breathtaking–and sometimes frightening–beauty.

One more caveat, though: I am definitely not a fan of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly destruction it left in its wake. I am even more outraged by the failure of our government to protect and rescue so many of our fellow citizens.

But if it’s a snowstorm in Seattle, I’m all for it. The Charlie Brown song has it right: “Snowflakes in the air, beauty everywhere…” So even though this latest spell of bad weather forced me to reschedule appointments and wait another year for one of my favorite parties, it did a lot of good things for me. It reminded me that I am small, and that the beauty of the world is huge. And it gave me time that I don’t give myself, time to watch the weather channel, make oatmeal, pet the sleeping dogs, and take a nap.

May your new year be filled with storms like this!

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