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Growing Up: What a Balancing Act

I've always been pretty good at balancing different things in my life.

When I was in high school, I was on the soccer team and that required a good chunk of my time going to practice. That was all about team work and learning how to use different playing skills as a member of the team.

It also required a lot of time practicing on my own. For example, trying to get better at juggling the ball is something you can only do on your own. I mean, you can practice juggling (like the guy on the right) with a bunch of other people around, but it's basically something you're doing by yourself. The purpose of this solo practice is to learn about timing and control so you can be a better team player. 

Then I had to balance my soccer practice with studying for my classes and staying on top of my grades. Our coach always said something like, "Your school work always comes first. You fall behind in that and you're off the team." An important lesson in "balancing."

I also had a part-time job when I was in high school. There was a small family-owned grocery store close to where I lived and I was a bagger and stock boy. Now I had to add school work (number one priority) to soccer practice and my job. Another balancing act.

I did a pretty good job of managing all these things. I kept my grades up, I never missed soccer practice, I always made time for my solo soccer practice, and I always made it to work on time. Like I said, I've always been pretty good at balancing different things in my life.

At the time, I felt like all the things I just described required a huge amount of effort to stay on top of it all. Well, now we get to a different phase of my life.

I now feel like I'm taking an advanced course in how to balance my life.

One of the things I've been talking to my therapist about is how to better manage all the important things I'm doing. He asked me to make a list of these things. This is what I came up with:

1. My relationship with Matty
2. My course work in college.
3. My relationship with my dad.
4. Paying for college.
5. Spending time with family.
6. Spending time with friends.
7. Recreation and fun.

Well, one conclusion is that I'm not in high school any more!

My therapist then said he suspected the first four on the list probably involved more than a few emotions.

The next thing he wanted me to do was to identify which specific emotions were involved in each thing. Huh? What was he talking about? All I could come up with at the time was this:

1. Matty - Happy emotions.
2. College classes - Stress emotions.
3. Dad - Confused emotions.
4. Paying for college - Stress emotions.

Well, he tried to get me to elaborate on each emotion, and that was a little harder.

He said, "Are all your emotions with Matty 'happy'?"

"Well, mostly, but sometimes there's stress."

"What kinds of stress?"

"Well, you know."

(He didn't accept that as an answer. He said, "How do you think I would know unless you tell me?")

"Okay. Sometimes I have feelings when he forgets things."

"What kind of feelings?"

"Well.... I don't know. Maybe aggravated. I guess."

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~    

We went through each of the first four things I listed and he asked the same questions. The end result of that is I got an assignment. He gave me a handout listing all the different emotions there are. And it was in fine print. And it went on and on and on. (Not really, but that's what it felt like!)

He suggested I start keeping a "Feelings Journal" where I would keep track of different things I do that make me have a feeling. Then he wanted me to go to the list he gave me and find the feeling that best describes it.

Well, before I had my second session, I decided to rebel against my
therapist. Pretty ballsy, huh? What he wanted me to do with this assignment was making me have all kinds of emotions. These are the words on my handout that matched my emotions about doing this assignment:

Irritated. Annoyed. Upset. Miserable. Ashamed. Pessimistic. Alone. Fatigued. Vulnerable. Frustrated. Anxious. Worried. Restless. Dejected. Humiliated. Sorrowful. Unhappy. Lonely.

Lovely. Just lovely. Definitely not a pretty picture.

We talked about why I was feeling all those things and it all boiled down to me telling him this was making me feel too many things when I just need to concentrate on getting through finals. At least for right now.

"How do you feel right now telling me this assignment is too much?"

(I had the List of Feelings handout in my lap but I didn't want to look down at it. It felt like I might be looking at a cheat sheet, ya know?)

"Well.... I'm feeling like you might think I'm not trying hard enough. That I'm not doing my best."

"Brad, has anybody in your life ever told you, 'Brad, you're not trying hard enough? You're not doing your best.'?"

Well, I started getting teary and all I could say was, "Number three."

"Number three? I don't understand."

"Look at number three on that first list we did earlier."

"Your dad. Your dad use to tell you you're not trying hard enough?"


"Brad, I'm not your dad. You can tell me this assignment is too much and I'll respect that."

Well, if this was a play, the stage directions would say something like, [client breaks down crying].

The good thing about all this is that I feel like my therapist and I are on the same page. He gave me a relaxation CD and wants me to use it twice a day. He also wrote down this list (based on stuff I had already told him) and asked me to read it at least twice a day:

1. My GPA from high school was (__X__) [in the A range].
2. I've maintained an A-range in all my college assignments so far.
3. Even though I may feel I'm not trying hard enough, the reality is that A-range work in college is considered "above-average" performance.

I guess I'm doing a pretty good balancing act, all things considered.
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