Sunday, December 12, 2021

Welcoming yourself home

by Jen Perry, MSEd, MA, LPC

Hello Dear Friend and welcome to the January 2022 edition of the Resiliency Center’s monthly newsletter. I feel like I’m still trying to process 2020, and here we are in 2022! The theme for this month’s newsletter is “Welcoming Yourself Home,” a phrase that I use almost everyday to begin my own meditation and frequently as I lead meditations for my clients and the participants in my Self-Compassion Group.

Welcoming yourself home acknowledges that human beings are made up of parts, little sub-personalities if you will, and that one of the most important aspects of mental and emotional health is having a healthy relationship with these parts of ourselves. Now before I go any further let me tell you that the argument about whether humans are of one mind (or mono-minded) or multiplicitous (made up of parts) has gone on for centuries. If you are a geek like me and want to learn more, Richard Schwartz, the developer of modern parts work called Internal Family Systems (IFS) has a book entitled Many Minds, One Self that provides the history. You may also want to check out his latest book, No Bad Parts. On YouTube, you can find a number of interviews with him and a series of informative lectures.   

But more important than what ancient philosophers and modern scientists who study this have to say, I invite you to take this information in and ponder it using your own good sense. Have you ever felt more than one way about something? Ever had difficulty making a decision because you actually had two or more different opinions about what to do? Have you ever been strongly convinced of your opinion in an argument one evening and by the next morning flipped completely around wondering, “What was I thinking?” If you have Disney+, treat yourself to a short animated film called “Twenty Something” to see an artful rendition of parts. One of the major objectives in IFS is to promote harmony among our parts. The other major objective is to connect our parts to Self, the mysterious presence or soul substance that connects us all with the qualities of love, compassion, calm, creativity, and courage.

Welcoming yourself home is a process that reaches out to all the parts of ourselves with respect, warmth, and curiosity. My dear friend and Resiliency Center colleague Michael Bridges shared a beautiful metaphor with me ~ “Imagine there is a “heart room” in the center of your being ~ warm, comfortable, welcoming, nourishing ~ a judgement-free zone where your parts can be held in a gentle space of understanding.” As another dear friend, mentor, and the Director of the Resiliency Center, Elizabeth Venart, taught me: “If we can’t understand just yet, we rest patiently with confidence that our parts make sense if only they have a calm space to tell their story.”

There is not a relationship you will have in this lifetime that is more important and more longstanding than your relationship with all the different parts of you. Some parts of us are easy to love, and some are more difficult. Some have been in what’s called “the shadow” for a long time. Approaching our parts purely from intellect rarely works for long and can add to inner tension, whereas an inner sense of spaciousness and curiosity invites us to soften and open up. If you have ever tried to lecture a child until you were blue in the face, not getting anywhere at all, and yet found they melted into connection with you whenever you offered the gentleness and comfort of a hug, then you know what I mean. Author and poet Jeff Foster has a beautiful YouTube video that expresses the healing that can occur when we hold our parts with tenderness.

Thank you for spending a few minutes of your day with me ~ My wish for this month is that we both to feel welcome in ourselves and experience a moment of connection with ourselves and one another. Albeit asynchronous connection as I am writing this in early December and you are now reading this in January, but connection all the same. Perhaps when I am in my heart room and you are in your heart room, we are in the same place.

Jen Perry, MSEd, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Mindfulness Teacher, and Peaceful Parenting Coach. Her passion is helping Highly Sensitive People thrive in life, love, and parenting. She has been in the field for over twenty years and is devoted to studying the human psyche or soul and is often in awe of human compassion, strength, resilience, and consciousness. She loves pondering the mysteries of the Universe. In addition to seeing clients individually, she offers classes and a self-compassion group. She also loves teaching and guiding parents of Highly Sensitive Children. Learn more about Jen and her practice.

Monday, November 15, 2021

How to Give Yourself Grace - and Move Forward

by Therese Daniels

The times when we need grace the most are the times when we are least likely to give it to ourselves. The term grace has many different meanings, but for this purpose we can consider “giving ourselves grace,” the act of giving ourselves permission to forgive our mistakes, our lapses in judgement, and our hurtful behavior. We forgive ourselves because we are all human, and life can be hard. Author and Yoga teacher Dianne Bondy, in an article on giving yourself grace says, “Grace happens to give us some space, acceptance, and room to take a hard swallow or step back.” She believes that we cannot use grace as an excuse, but rather as an opportunity to take action and move forward.  Here are some ideas on how to give yourself grace and move forward:

1.     Re-evaluate your goals/expectations

I never want to advise anyone to not dream too big or shoot for the stars. It is great and important to have big long-term goals. But the key to achieving them is to start off small. If you start the New Year saying you are going to go to the gym every single day, but you have been going zero days, that is a big leap. Start with 1-2 days a week, be happy if you make that achievement, and use the motivation to get to the next level. Start with the big goal and then work backwards and break them down into smaller steps/goals and check them off the list as you go along towards the bigger, long-term goal. A strategy called SMART goal setting can be a helpful tool to get started.

2.     Just say NO

We live in a world where we feel the need to say yes and constantly people please. “Yes, I’ll take the extra project,” “Yes, I can help you with that,” “Yes, I can add an extra appointment,” “Yes, I can drive you there,” “Yes, I can watch your child.” Helping others is admirable and desirable, but anything to the extreme can be unhealthy. Balance is key. Allow yourself to say no AND to not feel guilty about it. While it can, and usually does, feel good and provide satisfaction to do things for others, there is certainly a limit that we do not always pay attention to. It is healthy to set boundaries. It is a way to be kind to ourselves, recognize our limits, and it sets us up for satisfaction and success versus frustration and burn out. 

3.     Stop saying “I should”

We need to stop “shoulding” all over ourselves. I do not love this saying, but it carries a lot of truth. Psychologist Clayton Barbeau coined the term “Shoulding yourself,” meaning putting pressure on yourself to do or be something based on what you or others think you’re supposed to be doing or having regret for past actions (or non actions). This type of thinking is very common and provides little to no space for action. It helps us shame and guilt ourselves and leads to a lack of motivation. It keeps us stuck in the past. While we can learn from past behaviors, putting too much pressure on ourselves and living in regret wastes our mental energy. Accepting things from the past and learning to move forward with kindness is a much more productive and beneficial mind set. Replace “should” with “I want to…” or “Next time I will…” and you will feel a difference.

4.     Flip the Script

We all talk to ourselves, in our heads (and sometimes out loud). There is a constant reel of automatic thoughts going through our minds all day, every day. And very often these thoughts are negative. We say mean things to ourselves, about ourselves. Research in Cognitive Therapy shows that thoughts cause feelings. Most people believe that events cause feelings, but it really comes down to what we are saying to ourselves. If someone is stuck in a traffic jam and thinks, “Oh no, I am going to be late! My boss will be mad. What if I can’t get all of my work done? I should have left earlier! Why did I make myself coffee?”, then chances are, that person is going to feel anxious and flustered. If someone stuck in the same traffic jam instead thinks, “Ugh, traffic is annoying, but oh well, I can’t control it.  I’ll just let my boss know what happened, and I will take this time to get more prepared for work, listen to good music, and roll the windows down to get some fresh air” then, chances are that person is going to feel calm and ready for the day ahead. Same situation – but very different thoughts and very different feelings. It is helpful and important to “flip the script.” Change what you are saying to yourself. When you notice yourself starting to feel a negative emotion, pay attention to what you are saying to yourself in your head and flip it! Replace it with something positive. It may not feel natural at first, but the more you try, the more it will become your typical thought response. I often offer my clients Refocus Bands. It is something you wear on your wrist and on the inside there is a positive phrase. You wear it, flip it, and then refocus. Another idea is to write words or phrases on popsicle sticks and keep them in a bag or in your pocket and pull them out when feeling down. Small things like that are simple but helpful

In closing, I invite you to give yourself grace. Use the month of December to begin practicing self-kindness and let the momentum build throughout 2022. Start with yourself and watch the kindness spread to all of those around you! Let 2022 be the year when compassion was contagious – and it spreads like wildfire.

Therese M. Daniels, MA, LPC has been in the mental health field for 20 years. She provides individual, couples, and family counseling for ages 6 and up. She specializes in anxiety, depression, self-esteem, life transitions, and more. Learn more at / and Contact her at or 410-919-9673.

Regret, Self-Blame, and Learning to Give Yourself Grace

by Therese Daniels 

The month of December tends to be a time where we look back over the past year. Many of us expected a lot more out of 2021. I can clearly remember so many people proclaiming strong goodbyes to 2020 with a swift strong kick saying, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” All with hopes of a much brighter year to come, one filled with family, friends, travel, and simple reconnection. Well, I am not sure about everyone else, but I get the sense that 2021 did not quite deliver. Things have certainly improved since this time last year, especially in recent weeks; however much of 2021 was darkened by COVID, natural disasters, and much more. COVID variants and spikes caused cancelled events, travel, and social gatherings. Natural disasters displaced people from their homes. Increased anger and violence cost people their lives and loved ones…I could go on.

Within the stress and storm of these ongoing events, I have noticed a concerning mindset and repetitive theme in the ways people talk about life lately. It is a pattern of guilt, shame, regret, and self-doubt. I have heard countless statements that begin with phrases such as, “I should have done___”  or “I should not have done ____”  or “I can’t believe I didn’t ___” or “I wish I would have ___”. I have heard even stronger self-condemnation in the face of hardship, shared as strongly as “I hate myself for ___”. Hearing this, I am struck by sadness and even fear. If we cannot be kind to ourselves as individuals, then how can we genuinely show kindness to others or even hope others will extend kindness to us?

The unfortunate truth is that we really have no control over the external events that happen all around us. So much that happens is outside our control. It makes sense that we wish we had more control than we really do and even that there is a problem-solving part of us that looks at past events with an eye on preventing painful events from recurring. But this isn’t always possible. We can’t stop a tornado. We can’t go back to 2019 and prevent the pandemic. And while we can do our best to prevent our three year old or elderly parents from contracting COVID, we cannot guarantee it. 

Something we can have control over, however, is how we treat and talk to ourselves. Especially in the face of pain and hardship. Rather than berating ourselves (and others) for what we could have, should have done differently, we can pause. We can allow ourselves to acknowledge the pain. We can invite in kindness, acceptance, and grace towards ourselves. In doing this, we can interrupt the pattern of negativity and regret. While fueled by a desire for control, the blame game (ourselves and others) simply adds to the pain. When we pause and welcome self-compassion, we may start a domino effect of compassion that extends beyond ourselves. Offering ourselves kindness and acceptance, we become more able to offer kindness and acceptance to others. Starting with ourselves and then extending kindness to our loved ones, neighbors, and even strangers in our community, we are empowered to spread positivity where before negativity and fear lived.

The Pay It Forward Foundation was started in 2000 and is described as acts of kindness, generating a ripple effect from one person to the next, one community to the next. There are countless stories of people buying coffee for each other, paying tolls for the car behind them, spreading joy through quiet, unbidden acts of kindness. People experience such joy from doing and seeing things like this for others, yet sometimes have a very hard time applying this concept to themselves. What might it look like to “pay it forward” in your own life? To give yourself the gift of kindness – and then build upon that to be increasingly, consistently kind towards YOU?

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Children (The Inner Ocean #10)

 By Dean Solon

a serpentine sand city
with one young girl
making adjustments and additions
to a creation that must have required
many hours and many workers.
she tending to the improvements
with focus and intention.

all around us
are mighty excavations
and marvelous achievements.

is a witnessing
of a second outpouring
of passionate digging
by the ocean’s edge.

undoubtedly many have contributed
to the building of these new sites, 
but today all we see are young ones,
the children, seriously intent on doing 
something new,
something different.

there are deep holes,
basins, canyons,
continents and worlds
hollowed out
where it might be imagined
maybe millions,
could be living.

would i want to take a chance 
and live in one of them,
with everything to leave behind
and nothing to lose?

would you want to come with me
with a song in your heart
and a bounce to your step?

sting wrote:
when the world is running down
make the best of what’s still around.

how much time do we have left
to be composing, to be singing,
to be whirling ecstatically
as daring dervishes?

all the time
in the world...

all these stray thoughts going nowhere,
all these ancient travelers coming home.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Name Thief

by Caitlin McGinley


Maybe Jenkins was a very vain seventh-grade girl. She loved her beautiful face, her perfect smile, and her gorgeous hair. She filled her cell phone’s camera roll with selfies daily. But there was one thing Maybe did not love. Her name. Maybe complained about her name almost as often as she took selfies.

One chilly Autumn morning, while carving pumpkins with her mother, Maybe dug in, “Mother, why did you give me such a ridiculous name?”

Maybe’s mother glopped a handful of pumpkin innards onto the table and sighed, “Maybe, if you hate it so much just change it! Go to the cemetery across the street and pick one from there. When you find one you like, stop, make a wish, and chant the name three times.”

Maybe decided her mother was nuts.


First thing Monday morning, Maybe told her friend Tina about her mom’s crazy idea. Quiet, humble, and shy, Tina didn’t understand why Maybe cared so much about a name. But she stayed supportive, “Just try your mother’s idea. When it doesn’t work, you can throw it in her face.”

At dismissal time, Maybe headed to the cemetery. She wove through the maze of graves until a unique headstone caught her eye.

Set in the stone was a glass oval containing a black and white photo of a beautiful girl. Beneath the picture was the name Daisy Crane.

Enchanted, Maybe chanted, “Daisy Crane. I wish my name was Daisy Crane. Daisy Crane. Daisy Crane!”

Maybe waited. Nothing happened. Cold, but vindicated, she trudged home.


The next day, Maybe got ready for school. She glanced up. Mounted to the wall above her headboard the big squishy block letters once spelling out M-A-Y-B-E now spelled D-a-i-s-y. Maybe crashed into the kitchen, “Mother! I think I’m hallucinating!”

Mother set down her mug of pumpkin-spice coffee, “Tell me what you saw, Daisy Dear.”

Maybe-Daisy’s jaw dropped.

“Close your mouth, Daisy. You don’t want to trap any flies. You’re fine. Now get to school!”


At school, Maybe-Daisy’s teachers and classmates called her by the stolen name.

A distraught Maybe-Daisy told Tina everything at lunch time.

Tina sighed, “Isn’t this what you wanted, Daisy?”

Maybe-Daisy knew Tina had a point. And by the end of the day, was back to taking selfies.


By Halloween, Maybe-Daisy had fully adopted her new name. She got into her cat costume, picked up her phone, held it at just the right angle, and snapped a selfie. Yuck! The image was all blurry!! Maybe-Daisy clomped down to the parlor, where her mother waited.

Maybe-Daisy’s Mother screamed, “Daisy! You have two faces!!”

Maybe-Daisy scurried to the nearest mirror. She shrieked in terror, streaked out of the house, and across the street to the cemetery.

She flung herself at Daisy Crane’s headstone. Her toe snagged on something, and she plummeted down to the ground. Dizzy, she tried to get up. Thunk! And hit her forehead against something hard.

She blinked. A layer of glass stood between her and the old cemetery.

The real Daisy Crane’s face floated into view.

Maybe pounded the window, “Let me out!!”

The girl snickered, “Hope you enjoy my name. Be careful what you wish for, Maybe!”

Daisy left the cemetery, leaving Maybe in her grave, where she can still be found to this



Caitlin McGinley is a writer and mother. She has participated in the Philadelphia Writers Workshop since 2019. She lives in Chalfont with her family.


Layers of Fall

by Michael Shapiro


Summer has ended and fall is now here

Holidays and joy coming ever so near

The layers of autumn charming with hues

Inviting to all who relish her views


Orange sunsets of a sleepy fall sky

Cool Crisp days prior to winter’s cry

The trees magnificent colors abound

Bringing beauty to everything around


Halloween magic of costumes and fun

Parading through town as all creatures come

Collecting their candy with all of their friends

Eating their treasures once festivities end


Thanksgiving soon follows family joy for all

Relatives at the table, how fantastic is fall

Turkey and trimmings such fabulous treats

Stories galore of their tales and their feats


While the days might get shorter a little each day

The colors of fall in our memories stay

A season so grand, so majestic is she

Wishing this is the way it always will be


Michael Shapiro, a writer in the Tuesday Night Writers Workshop, lives with his three dogs Bailey, Bell, and Karma. He began writing again after his wife died last December. He loves writing because, in his words, "I feel close to her when I write. I know we write together. (One Pen Two Hands One Mind One Heart). If my poems can bring a smile to someone or touch them in some positive way, I know I am honoring her and making a difference, which she would approve of. She is my inspiration. My goal is to share some joy."

By Invitation Only

This story is a “round-robin story,” meaning it was created collaboratively by writers in the Tuesday Night Writing Workshop. Each person wrote a few sentences and then emailed it to the next person who added their part until the story reached the last person who wrote the ending.


Matilda had always hated Halloween. She couldn't understand why anyone liked wearing silly costumes, eating gobs of candy, and trying to scare each other. She tolerated neither trick nor treat.

But all of that was about to change.

One crisp Saturday morning in October, Matilda was in her room watching an old episode of Girl Meets World when her mom appeared in the doorway.

“This came in the mail for you,” she said, thrusting a black envelope toward her.

Matilda had been waiting for this particular piece of mail for months. She thanked her mom and quickly closed the door. She hopped up on her bed with the letter, closed her eyes, and whispered three times, “Oranum…Cabtabum…Jasanum…” before ripping open the envelope.

“Drat!” she whispered when she realized this wasn’t the letter she’d been waiting for. Instead, it was another invitation to a Halloween party that was being thrown by a girl named Duende, who lived across the street.

Matilda did not tolerate Duende particularly well and could not understand why she had invited Matilda. After all, Duende didn’t even take the bus.

Matilda had hoped the letter was the one she had been waiting for. The letter that would help her escape, perhaps into another realm, or at the very least let her forget about all this Halloween nonsense she so dreaded.

But then she read the small print at the bottom of the invitation —"wizards only" — Could it be? The girl across the street? Did she also know about the magical school that Matilda had so wanted an invitation from? Was she also the decedent of Merlin and Maleficent and all the other greats? She turned to the back and used her magic marker to see if the true wizard emblem was there — that would prove the party was for real wizards, not just kids in costumes.

Lo and behold, the emblem burned with electric purple flame upon the paper! Matilda squealed with delight as she watched the flame reach its height before it fizzled out. Finally, the confirmation that she, too, was of powerful and ancient wizard stock and not just the ordinary and average. She rushed over to her bedroom window and peeked through her blinds, spying on the house across the street where the gathering would be held, where she hoped her life would change.

She looked down and saw that she was hovering three feet off the ground. She could levitate! So, with her newfound power, she floated to the window. Still floating, she willed it open, and out it flung, so she sailed into the night.

Across the street rose a cyclone around Duende’s house and lawn. As Matilda approached, the cyclone pulled her. She watched in wonder as other children in full wizard regalia flew around the cyclone catching candy in their mouths. Now, this she could tolerate. So, so she joined in and soon found she had captured a multi-colored candy that took her on a flavor escapade—first blackberry, then chocolate, then lemon, and just as the next flavor teased her tastebuds, she felt a gentle push on her shoulder and heard a playful cackle. She found herself spinning in the air. She could see Duende laughing, her pinwheel curls spinning out from beneath her wizard’s hat. On her next twirl, Matilda caught the hem of Duende’s robe, and down they whirled, rolling and laughing through the cyclone and onto the lawn.

The great bacchanalia ensued into the night. Most of the ways in which Matilda’s life changed forever cannot be divulged to the ordinary and average, but no one ever saw her take the bus to school again.


The following writers in the Tuesday Night Writing Workshop each contributed a few lines to this story: Jonathan Bell, Paula Behrens, Courtney DuChene, Rachel Kobin, Jonathan Leeds, Caitlin McGinley, Grue Shackelford, Michael Shapiro, and Katrina Starr.

First Frost

by Conrad Person


In the spring of 1961, Dad bought a postage stamp farm in Western Pennsylvania’s hill country. We were the only Black family in the area, and my parents worried that we wouldn’t be welcome. In truth, the reaction was mixed, but our closest neighbors were farmers and happy to see the long fallow land back under the plow. Their children didn’t comprehend the intricacies of prejudice, so we were accepted and, in turn, accepting. There were six of us, four boys and two girls, and more kids meant that every game was suddenly more fun to play.

By Hallowe’en the bulk of the harvesting was done, and Mrs. Samson, who lived a quarter mile down the road, invited all the neighborhood kids to celebrate at her house. Tall and round with her hair worn in curlers every day but Sunday, she knew a thousand games, and all of them seemed to require an apple. We bobbed for apples. We carved faces into apples to dry into heads for rag dolls. We put on blindfolds to bite at apples hanging from a string. The winners of the games were rewarded with first choice from a tray of apples on sticks coated with jaw-breaking, bright red candy.

As a special treat, she boiled cane sugar and corn syrup to make hard tack candy. As the mixture reached “hard crack” stage, Mrs. Samson poured in a spoonful of peppermint oil, creating a cloud of mint so strong that we children poured screaming from the house into the cold night air as if we were escaping tear gas.

“Come on, kids, and grab your spoons!” Mrs. Samson called. She drizzled the hot candy onto sheet pans then showed us how to butter two spoons and use their backs to work the puddles into snakes as the candy cooled and hardened. She sent us all home with pillowcases of homemade candy, oatmeal cookies, popcorn balls, and fudge. What a feeling of excitement to be laden with treats, then turned out of a bright house into the autumn darkness. It was a deliciously spooky walk home down the narrow dirt road by the light of a nearly full moon.

Along the way, my oldest brother Greg scared us with talk of ghosts and maniacs, but as our shepherd, he also hurried us off the road when he saw the approaching headlights of a car traveling too fast for dirt and gravel. We waited in the roadside weeds and endured the slurs and beer cans the passengers hurled at us as they passed.


Currently a member of the Manuscript Workshop, Conrad Person lives in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia and draws from his personal experiences to craft fiction and memoir. Hailing from a family tradition of farming and steelworking, his perspective on American life comes through the lens of African-Americans who are children of the great migration from the rural South to the industrial North.


Autumn Days

by Nick Pipitone


red & gold leaves, crisp air tell me

autumn is here – they crunch under my feet

smoky smell of a firepit wafts through

the neighborhood, pumpkins on porches,

hot coffee in cold hands — walking in

golden sunlight, slight shiver when

the north wind blows, a football is thrown

high in the air — jump! snatch it!

snatch onto autumn days

they don’t last long


Nick Pipitone is an alumnus of the Philadelphia Writers Workshop, and he’s lived in the Philly area for most of his life. His favorite season is autumn because there’s football, beautiful foliage, and cooler weather. He originally posted “Autumn Days,” on his blog, Fiction and Ideas [] where you can enjoy more of his writing.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Travel as a Restorative and Transformative Experience

by Barbra Danin, LMFT

As summer ends and we continue to return to life pre-pandemic, the busy lives we led may feel different to us and some of the effects of lockdown may be more and more apparent.  One aspect of life that changed dramatically was the amount and type of stimulation we experienced.  Most activities, gatherings, and cultural and social events ceased to occur, and we had little opportunity to engage in novel experiences.

The effects of under-stimulation, lack of physical exercise, social interaction and novel experiences have been studied extensively, particularly among inmates from prison populations who have spent time in solitary confinement.  The extreme deprivation can lead to various mental and behavioral challenges, social anxiety, and cognitive impairment.  The effects of less extreme sensory-reduction, however, are less clearly understood, though we do know that for many, boredom and lack of activity can create depression, mood swings, and apathy. 

In May 2021, the New York Times published an article by Adam Grant on “languishing”.  He defined it as having a sense of emptiness and stagnation, a “failure to thrive”…….it feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.”

In the article, Grant suggested that languishing may be the most widely held experience of 2021, and that many may not be fully aware of this disposition. Of concern is the prediction that individuals who “languish” are at an increased risk for other mental health issues in the future. However, by identifying the feeling and addressing the symptoms, it’s possible to shift our state of mind.  One extremely beneficial strategy is to engage in novel, interesting and stimulating activities. 

As summer ends and we continue to return to life pre-pandemic, the busy lives we led may feel different to us and some of the effects of lockdown may be more and more apparent.  One aspect of life that changed dramatically was the amount and type of stimulation we experienced.  Most activities, gatherings, and cultural and social events ceased to occur, and we had little opportunity to engage in novel experiences.

The effects of under-stimulation, lack of physical exercise, social interaction and novel experiences have been studied extensively, particularly among inmates from prison populations who have spent time in solitary confinement.  The extreme deprivation can lead to various mental and behavioral challenges, social anxiety, and cognitive impairment.  The effects of less extreme sensory-reduction, however, are less clearly understood, though we do know that for many, boredom and lack of activity can create depression, mood swings, and apathy. 

In May 2021, the New York Times published an article by Adam Grant on “languishing”.  He defined it as having a sense of emptiness and stagnation, a “failure to thrive”…….it feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.”

In the article, Grant suggested that languishing may be the most widely held experience of 2021, and that many may not be fully aware of this disposition. Of concern is the prediction that individuals who “languish” are at an increased risk for other mental health issues in the future. However, by identifying the feeling and addressing the symptoms, it’s possible to shift our state of mind.  One extremely beneficial strategy is to engage in novel, interesting and stimulating activities. 

For many reasons, travel is an activity that has the potential to improve our overall well-being. In her blog for the World Travel & Tourism Council, Tiffany Misrahi cites several ways in which travel can be beneficial:

1.     Travel gives you opportunities to try new things and meet new people, helping you combat monotony. Travel connects people and provides opportunities to learn about new and different cultures, which can help increase your empathy towards others.

2.     Activities, like walking, hiking, and skiing, in scenic areas can help you become more hopeful. A 2020 study found that people who were consciously aware of the vistas and objects around them on a walk reported being more hopeful and upbeat than other walkers.

3.     Travel is great for relieving stress and improving your general outlook on life. According to a 2013 study with people aged 25 to 70+, 80% of respondents said travel improves their general mood and outlook on life with 75% of respondents also saying travel helps them reduce stress.

4.     Travel helps your brain function better and boosts creativity. Immersing yourself in new cultures increases your mind’s ability to move between different ideas, think more deeply, and integrate thoughts. “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor and author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel.

5.     Time away from work can increase your energy and productivity at work. A Harvard Business Review study of over 400 travelers found that 94% of respondents had as much or more energy after coming back from a good trip.

6.     A wellness trip can contribute to stronger mental health. On a wellness retreat focused on practices like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, you can learn skills that you can bring home to help you keep up a regular wellness routine.

7.     Doing something you enjoy makes you happy. Pull out that bucket list and see what you still need to check off. By doing something you enjoy, you perform necessary self-care and contribute to your own happiness.

8.     Traveling with loved ones helps meet your needs for love and belonging. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identifies love and belonging as key psychological human needs. Sharing your amazing travel adventures with loved ones helps enhance your connection with them while intensifying feelings of love, belonging, and fulfilment.

Although summer is typically the time for vacationing, it is possible to travel and to engage in novel activities all throughout the year.  Travel can include a day trip to a nearby destination, a weekend getaway, or an extended get away.  Although international travel remains limited, there are numerous destinations throughout the northeast that are easily accessible by car, train or bus.  Numerous websites such as Trip Advisor and the American Auto Club offer information on travel destinations, accommodations, dining options and things to do. 

The possibilities are endless!

Barbra Danin, MA, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Art Therapist, and Certified EMDR Therapist.  She provides individual, couples, and family therapy.  Her specialties include treating children with anxiety, trauma, and behavioral issues – and empowering parents with concrete tools for lasting change. Learn more at and Contact her at (314) 477-8585 or

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

My Mantra for the past 40 years: The Influence of Roethke's The Waking:

by Michael Bridges

I thought I would close these musings on poetry and the journey of life with a poem that I first read when I was nineteen years old and in the very early days of leaving home and trying to find my own inner, guiding voice. When I first came across The Waking, I had no idea what a villanelle was. But I do remember that the repeating rhymes and refrains were both powerful and soothing. And while I was aware from my readings in philosophy and psychology that an awareness of my own mortality was important, exactly why that was important was an abstract concept that eluded me. Still, I was aware even as a young man, that the sleep that Roethke was referring to, was that bigger sleep that waits for all of us at the end of our journey. But without giving too much away, I’ll let you read and experience Roethke’s wonderful work before sharing more about how much The Waking has influenced my life.


The Waking

by Theodore Roethke


I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.  

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.  

I learn by going where I have to go.


We think by feeling. What is there to know?  

I hear my being dance from ear to ear.  

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.


Of those so close beside me, which are you?  

God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,  

And learn by going where I have to go.


Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?  

The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;  

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.


Great Nature has another thing to do  

To you and me; so take the lively air,  

And, lovely, learn by going where to go.


This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.  

What falls away is always. And is near.  

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.  

I learn by going where I have to go.

My love for The Waking has only deepened over the years and has actually inspired my own poetic attempt at a morning, spiritual practice for several years now. I take Roethke’s advice to “…take my waking slow” literally. I try to always make sure I wake with at least an hour to continue waking slowly. The most hurry I display after I first wake is to get my first cup of coffee. (I’m very sure that Roethke neglected to mention coffee only because it through off the rigid rhyming requirements of the villanelle.) After I fill my cup, I immediately return to my bed where I sit, sip coffee, and give myself time to notice things like fragments of dreams, the way the light comes through my bedroom window, how the light changes with the seasons and the weather. I also notice the way the just waking, “To Do List” managers of my mind start planning our day. But my internal managers and I have reached an understanding, and I remind them this is still the time for poetry and reflection.

As I continue to sip my coffee and take my waking slow, I reach for one of the books or anthologies of poetry that I keep nearby and sometimes scan the table of contents for inspiration, or occasionally just randomly flip through until a particular title or line calls out. Then I read the poem aloud. I’ve noticed over time that certain poems that move me when I read then silently, will bring tears to my eyes when I read them aloud. Occasionally, I will be inspired to pick up my journal and attempt a poem of my own. And, while I am very aware that I lack both the talent and discipline of the poets I’ve shared thus far, I will close with one of my poems that, I hope, in a small way conveys how much poetry has influenced by experience of the journey of my life.

How Did I Get Here? What Have I Learned?

by Michael R. Bridges


I’m grateful I’m learning

To look back on all my

Bumbling, misguided failures

And see them as difficult,

Steep, rocky, dark, and

Muddy trails that still

Led me to the same

Spacious vista

I was hoping for.


Out of breath,

But each exhale

A silent, ragged



The Difficult Work of Welcoming Our Painful Emotions

 by Michael Bridges

When I was a young man and first starting my own spiritual and therapeutic journey, I imagined that one day, after I had become enlightened and had successfully uncovered and experienced the catharsis and resolution of all my traumas that, well, it was just going to be smooth sailing the rest of my days. These days I can look back with love and appreciation on the determined young man I was, while also shaking my head with a bit of bemusement at his naiveté. While all the work I’ve done on myself has certainly led to a much calmer, compassionate and good-humored inner landscape than when I started my journey, the tribulations and at times, absolute horrors of the external world, and the occasional resurfacing of desperate and howling parts of my own psyche that I thought had been lain to rest, have  helped me once again realize the wisdom conveyed in the following poem from the great Sufi mystic and poet Rumi, as channeled through this interpretation by Coleman Barks. 

The Guest House

by Rumi


This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.


A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.


Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.


The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.


Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.


The Difficult Work of Recovering Love for One’s Self After Love Has Ended

by Michael Bridges

One of the more common and heartbreaking reasons that many people decide to enter therapy is due to the end of a marriage or a romantic relationship. This is particularly true when someone starts to realize some version of, “I just lost myself in this relationship. I can’t seem to remember who I was before. I’m not even sure I can find that person again. Maybe I’ve lost them forever.”

Derrek Walcott, who has the distinction of being the only Nobel Prize winner from the Caribbean, in the following poem provides the necessary hope that the pain and heartbreak will eventually recede while also providing the powerful reminder that love does not only come from others. Even if that other person was the one we thought, and perhaps vowed, we would be with for the rest of our life. Indeed, being able to consistently love and support to our “self” is often an important antidote to those of us who have been preoccupied with finding our emotional salvation and redemption through romantic love.

Love After Love

by Derrek Walcott


The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome,


and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you


all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,


the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.