On Shoveling Snow

We were having such a mild winter this year until I shoveled snow again this past week. While shoveling I actually enjoyed thinking back to the massive snowfall we had back in ’08. It’s a vivid memory because I wrote something about it. Perhaps you can relate to this excerpt…

I’ve just finished shoveling my driveway from another snowfall. And it took some two and half hours, second time this week. This winter has seen the most snow fall in 25 years—a real old fashioned Chicago winter, the one I remember from when I was a kid. We’re getting near the record dumps we had in the late 1970’s when we had to shovel snow off the roof. But, of course, nothing comes close to the famous 1967 snowfall when traffic was stopped in Chicago and we skied down streets with only the top of cars visible. Back then we had two feet and then some, which stopped Chicago for a week. I was a grad student then, in an apartment building and I didn’t even own a shovel and I’m not sure I even knew what a snow-blower was.

Now I have a snow blower and it works just fine. I’ve owned that snow blower for almost 30 years, replaced an engine and though bent and beat-up it works just fine—just like me. So the question is “With all this snow why haven’t I used it this winter yet?” In fact, today I made a choice not to even use it on the bottom of our driveway, which was thick with the icy stuff left by the city snowplows. It took me some 200 shovel-fulls to get that baby cleaned off. Two hundred times of lifting and heaving the snow over my shoulder. The snow on the edge of the driveway had grown to some four, even five feet at some points. I like growing my snow pile while getting exercise and “marveling” that at 66 I can still get the job done! Some guys would be found sprawled dead at the bottom of the driveway with what I did today. But I love the macho pride of doing it and then bragging to my wife the next day that I feel neither joints nor muscles aching. Of course, I top the work off by drinking a few shots of Slivovitz (plum brandy) during the course of shoveling. Oh, and I smoke a cigar while doing it. I have my old ratty jacket I wear, and if really cold, my Russian fur hat. I look like a peasant from Russia where my people came from a hundred years ago. I love it. Tradition!

But there is another reason I do it without my snow blower, if I can. Note I say, “if I can.” I’m not stupid, though I think I can hear a few snickers out there. Were the snow heavy, dense and wet I probably would start her up. I’ve done it before and that’s a different me. But I welcome the opportunity; I take pleasure in the quietness of doing it slowly over time. It’s not that I don’t have anything better to do, this is the “better” that I do when I have the time to do it. It’s an indulgence, like the Slivovitz and cigar that go with it. I enjoy myself.

And it is quiet when I am shoveling since I start early in the morning as the sun is coming up. Yes, I do. It really is quite beautiful at that time and where I live, at the top of a hill sloping downward, across a wooded lot, bordering on a park with the river running alongside it and forking around an island in the middle. The geese are getting up and starting to fly. Being outside where I live is special and a treat for me.

I “meditate” in the beginning of my shoveling as I get into the rhythm of it and, of course, I have my pattern of going this way and that way. I really love my wife, but this is one job around the house that I’ve never heard her tell me a better way to do it other then the way I do it. I do it my way, as Sinatra would sing. And sometimes, I do hear tunes in my head, think about conflicts I have, and clients I’m seeing. In solitude I’m with quite a number of people. Usually, by the time I’m getting tired I’ve solved a few situations needing resolving. Shoveling is a spiritual thing for me. It’s every bit as spiritual as many esoteric things I’ve done in my life. I think God understands this. Good work can often bring us closer to God because we’re having a real relationship with what we are doing and that quality of connectedness is what we are all seeking. Shoveling snow does that for me. And I get that driveway real clean.

Sheldon Isenberg
February 4, 2008 (adapted January 17,2012)

America’s Not-So-Dirty Secret: The Sexless Marriage

Behind closed doors, millions of couples are harboring a not-so-dirty little secret: We still love each other, but we don’t have sex anymore.

Can a romantic relationship exist without sex? Robert Weiss, in his blog “Sex and Intimacy” writes that for an estimated 40 million people in the United States, the answer is yes. Whereas the average married couple over age 30 has sex 58 times a year (just over once a week), 15 to 20 percent of couples are “sexless,” according to national surveys.

To read more and to subscribe to Weiss’s blog click here

For a complete listing of articles by Robert Weis, click here

Follow Robert on Twitter @RobWeissMSW

Talking Face to Face Is So Yesterday

In an article from The New York Times, Dominique Browning discusses technological advances have affected face time:

Face time — or what used to be known as spending time with friends and family — is exhausting. Maybe that’s why we’re all so quick to abandon it. From grandfathers to tweenies, we’re all taking advantage of the ways in which we can avoid actually talking, much less seeing, one another — but still stay connected.

Read the rest of the article here.

For Dominique Browning’s Slow Love Life blog click here.

This Little Light Of Mine

New beginnings, renewal, and rededication are celebrated at this time of year. Though in practice for sometime now, well a real longtime now, our current practice is now only a year old as is this website and blog. To mark the occasion at this special time of year we are again posting our first Reflections blog, “This Little Light of Mine.” The message is a timeless and joyous one befitting the season. We’d welcome your comments which can be sent to us personally or posted on our Facebook page. In-Joy!

This morning I awoke with a tune in my head which always has special meaning for me. I knew I was going to write my first blog for our new website for our new practice, Isenberg Counseling, LLC, which Raye and I began a few months ago. This is a season of new beginnings, of transition for the both of us. It is also the holiday season of new beginnings in a few of our religious traditions.

The tune I awoke humming was “This Little Light of Mine,” an African-American spiritual, which seems to relate to our having lit the candles the night before for our holiday of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. I also knew of the recent Hindu festival of lights, called Diwali, and as Christmas approaches we think of the Star of Bethlehem leading the way for powerful Wise Men to a simple child in a manger.

Light symbolizes the energy of renewal, of rebirth, of rededication, of redemption, of hope and peace after darkness, In so many faith traditions we create light to warm and renew us, to remind us, to bring into awareness the inner light naturally within us.

We have the power within us to connect to that light by recalling the people and personal experiences which have inspired us to act in ways of personal integrity encouraging our heart-felt need to experience renewal throughout the seasons of our lives. In this joyous season of renewal I now recall how my personal little light has sometimes, through fear, grown faint and how that light, through integrity, has manifested itself to shine brightly.

In this season of lights and hope Raye and I wish you the power to sing with gusto (google for entire song):

This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine

Ev’ry where I go
I’m going to let it shine

All in my house
I’m going to let it shine

I’m not going to make it shine
I’m just going to let it shine

Out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

10% Of Americans Take Antidepressants

10 % of Americans take Antidepressants

Did you know that more than 1 in 10 Americans over age 12 take an antidepressant, a class of drugs that has become widely popular in the past several decades Antidepressants were the third most common drug used by Americans of all ages between 2005 and 2008, and they were the most common drug among people 18 to 44, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The team analyzed data on more than 12,000 Americans who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between 2005 and 2008. They found that antidepressant use in the United States jumped nearly 400 percent in the 2005-08 survey period compared with the 1988-94 period. The increase followed the 1987 approval of Eli Lilly and Co.’s Prozac or fluoxetine, the first of a newer class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRIs.

-Taken from the Chicago Tribune

Can Therapy Be A Spiritual Experience?

We are not human beings having spiritual experiences.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Theilard deChardin

Whether you consider spirituality to be about accepting a higher power or becoming “whole,” whether it is the search for the meaning in life, having a sense of transcendence or simply following your heart, the sacred has profound impact on our lives. Throughout our lives, consciously or not, we are on a spiritual journey to make some sense of the universe and understand our place in it.

Therapy is about turning. Indeed, the therapeutic process can play a tremendous part in the journey. Many of our clients come for professional help to better connect with others around the problems in their lives or within themselves. A few are in conflict with their religious teaching. Some are not able to experience a unity with anything because they are rushing to keep up. They don’t hear their own heart.

As therapists, we have some skill and background of experience, which enables us to give guidance and coach people to get past how they disconnect, so that they can connect with what’s best in them and with others. Though we’ve never said we offer “spiritual services,” we believe our work has a spiritual dimension.

Therapy approaches spiritual dimensions when creative connections occur between the therapist and client or couple. These connections may be warm, humorous, sharp, angry or full of sorrow, but they are REAL. In our experience, clients sharing their realities and having them openly received has healing power.

Much of what goes on in counseling and coaching is about turning mistaken beliefs into affirming, curative beliefs and behaviors. Being present for another’s turning is both a joy and a humbling, spiritual experience for us as therapists.

Therapists and clergy often deal with similar human problems. Our training may differ, but we think the goals are similar; the alleviation of human suffering and the health of the human spirit. Human beings have a core need to know that they are not alone, that there is value to their existence and in their love of others, and that they and their loved ones can be redeemed and released from their conflict. These are the very deep spiritual issues that come into our office every day.

Depressed Wary of Antidepressants

According to the Chicago Tribune article “Depressed wary of antidepressants,” the journal Annals of Family Medicine conducted a study that found that patients suffering from depression might not inform their doctor of their symptoms. The most common reason people are withholding information is that they are afraid that the only recommendation they will receive from their physician is for an antidepressant prescription medicine. In a survey of 1,054 adults, 43% of those surveyed cited more than one reason why they would be wary to inform their doctor of depression, with the most cited concern being prescribed medicine. Another 10% stated that they would withhold symptoms and information due to the possible chance that they would be referred to a counselor or psychiatrist. The study also found that those people who listed several reasons as to why they were less likely to report depression were typically female, Hispanic, with less education, and lower income.

Dealing With Differences Part 2

Having differences is not synonymous with being in conflict. Conflict is the result of not being able to reconcile differences. Differences are inherent in the nature of any relationship. They co-exist with similarities. It is how we approach them that determine whether the process of dealing with our differences might actually improve the relationship. Dealing with differences can be a creative process between people. Here is a toolbox of skills to help you be more creative in your relationship:

• Hold judgment on what someone is saying and ask questions intended to improve your understanding of their different opinion. Clarify meaning by asking questions like “Did you mean…”

• Where you have differences of approach to a particular problem or decision, keep your focus on arriving at a joint decision or approach to a problem. Seek agreement without giving in.

• Be aware of whether you are only expounding your own view, rather than also being willing to listen to different opinions. When you listen to me I feel respected. When you don’t, I will fight your opinions.

• Give someone “the benefit of the doubt.”

• Listen for keywords, which is where you will find the heart of someone’s position. Speak and ask questions relating to those keywords. Watch your own tendency to avoid getting to the heart of your differences and getting lost in side issues.

• Be aware that the other person can sometimes emphasize differences and create distance, even anger. Diffuse this kind of emphasis by emphasizing common goals.

• Separate the person from the words. React to the differing opinion, not the person.

• When dealing with differences, move in closer. The closer you are, the more attention is being paid.

• Encourage feedback. What does the other person think you said?

• Shut out distractions. Control you own tendency to void the frustration of dealing with differences. Hang in there.

Now here is a secret of the therapist trade that I’ll let you in on if you’ve read this far. All the above tools are in the therapist toolbox for helping their clients. We use these tools to help clients with themselves and each other. These are the tools for creative listening and the resolving of issues that bedevil our clients. Using these tools properly will strengthen you as a person.

Intimacy And Sex

Not Tonight, Honey: The Plight of the Dual-Income, No-Sex Couple is a Work and Family column by Sue Shellenbarber for the Wall Street Journal. Shelly was interviewed at length for this article as was Michelle Weiner Davis, author of Divorce Busting and The Sex-Starved Marriage. The article deals with diminishment of intimacy and sexual relations amongst couples facing high amounts of stress. The article offers suggestions on keeping love alive.

View the full column on the Wall Street Journal’s website by clicking the link below:

Not Tonight, Honey: The Plight of the Dual-Income, No-Sex Couple

Dealing With Differences Part 1

Differences are unavoidable. They are part of what makes us human and what gives the tapestry of society texture and color. There is no question we are all different. We go about our daily lives differently, view the world differently, and react to changes differently. We even enjoy different hobbies and forms of entertainment. While it is true that some differences may never be bridged, it is also true that some differences can be welcomed if we realize how personal differences can actually add to the quality of our lives. Whether between individuals or within ourselves, how do we learn to deal with differences and find peace?

Sometimes when our differences cannot be reconciled we can experience great pain and consternation, particularly in relationships. Often times with couples, two of the most evident issues regarding differences involve money and sex, but many other differing values can cause conflict within a relationship.

Leaving these issues within the relationship unresolved can lead to stress, anger, denial, repression, resentment, and even feelings of betrayal. People can cut themselves off from each other because of the anger and helplessness they fell in bridging the differences between them. Decision-making can also become difficult, or even impossible, as the two people are too far apart in their perceptions of their mutual reality. Blaming can seem easier than finding ways to bridge the gap and live with differences.

Communication and empathy for understanding our differences are key to the process of dealing with differences. Clearly stating one’s concern, truly listening for meaning with full attention, and trying to se the way the other thinks, can give each person a perspective that will lead to acceptance and accommodation. From there, empathy and respect for the other’s point of view can pave the way to building tolerance and a good outcome for both parties.

In Dealing With Differences Part 2 we will provide some helpful suggestions on how to creatively and effectively bridge differences.