Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The thing about labels...

Dear Brooke,
I married the most incredible man in the world. He is everything I ever dreamed I would meet and has surpassed every expectation I have ever had of the man & relationship I would one day find.

Everything, that is, except for one tiny thing that seems to not be so tiny as our relationship grows. I am Jewish, and he is Catholic. I come from an Orthodox family and have a rabbi/cantor for a Grandfather. Neither my husband nor I are very religious but both come from families who are. My Husband has somehow won their hearts regardless of their hesitations regarding his religion and we managed to get married under a Chupah (Jewish wedding canopy) with blessings from nearly every member of our families.

We received those blessings only after my Husband-To-Be agreed to raise his unborn children Jewish. Now, as we seriously think about having children, I have an overwhelming sense of guilt. We were in an Orthodox Temple last weekend and as my husband left me to sit on the men's side wearing a kepah on his head, I could see how un-comfortable he was and it entirely broke my heart.

How can I prepare myself to raise my children Jewish without feeling as though I have stripped my Husband of teaching them his faith instead? Furthermore, how can I prepare myself to not break the promise I have made to myself and fail to raise them in a Jewish home in order to make my beloved Husband more comfortable in his own home?

Guilty Jew

Dear you gorgeous guilty love,

I’m just gonna jump right in…My first question is: What does it mean to raise your kids Jewish? What does it mean to you? I hear phrases like this all the time… “I want to raise my kids Jewish” or “My family wants us to raise our kids Jewish” So many people throw around words like this and decide things like how to raise their kids without really thinking about what it actually means. No wonder things can get so confusing...

The thing about labels is that they mean different things to different people. In order to responsibly use a label, we need to know what it means in our own hearts. Raising my kids “successful” for example, is going to mean something different to me as to you. Success is subjective, and so is Religion. Saying you want to raise your kids “Jewish” is more ambiguous than you know… In today’s modern-beautiful-diverse-spiritually-curious society religion has almost more definitions than love.

When you promise to raise your kids with a label that you yourself haven’t even defined yet as a family, as a couple, what does that promise really mean? So, I’m going to ask you to define it…for you.

Sit down with your sweet hubby and each have a piece of paper. On the top of yours, write: “Raising my kids Jewish means…” the paper will have a list that includes or doesn’t include things like, having a bar/bat mitzvah, having a briss, lighting candles on Friday night and having dinner as a family, going to Hebrew school, celebrating high holidays, referring to complaining as “kvetching” and heavy sweating as “schvitzing”… are you thinking orthodox, conservative, reform, kabbalistic/mystical, or Secular Yiddish word using Jew? Ahh, the possibilities. On the top of his write “Raising my kids Catholic means” and have him do the same exercise.

Then, sit down as a family. You and him…and talk about it. Why is that particular tradition or ceremony important to you? Is it to satisfy your grandfather and the ambiguous promise you made to your other relatives…or is it because it makes you cry with joy even thinking about including it in your life? What compromises are each of you willing to make? How can you hold and respect one another’s history…and how can you instill that respect into your children?

Share with your partner, and hear from him. Talk, discuss, and deliberately and responsibly build your foundation as Mr. and Mrs. Not-so-guilty-anymore Jew. If you are the artsy creative type, you can even make a final draft of the family traditions that you want to start with and post it in your home to remind both of you of this conversation and experience, and to have accountability within your partnership.

Just a little PS. If you have something like “go to services every Friday night”… don’t wait until your kids arrive. If it’s that important to you, start now (or continue), with your family of 2.

You can also do this exercise, and I recommend it, with non-religious traditions. This will give you and your man a great opportunity to build an even stronger foundation and family.

No matter how many promises you made to whoever you made them to…when it comes down to it, your kids are going to be a little bit of you, a little bit of the Mr. and a lot a bit of themselves. You can’t pretend that your Catholic husband, who you love through and through, and his family traditions just simply don’t exist-and you know that. You can inspire your kids and give them a foundation but eventually they are going to take the path that feels right in their own hearts.

Your struggle is so beautiful… it shows how much you love and respect your husband as well as yourself. Seeing that will be more valuable to your children than anything else…I promise.


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Monday, July 27, 2009

The thing about the past...

Dear Brooke,

I have been dating my boyfriend for just over two years. We are happy and in love. Although our relationship has always been good, it has been a long road to this point. When I first met him he was freshly (less than 2 months) out of a 7 year relationship. In the end of the relationship, his girlfriend had given him an ultimatum of marriage or an end to the relationship. He decided to propose and she accepted. A short time later, she changed her mind, for reasons unknown to me, and left him. Needless to say, it took him a long time to be able to offer himself fully to me. A year of patience, care and devotion eventually allowed him to feel comfortable and we have been very happy ever since.

A few days ago I was looking through his office searching for a paper clip. I looked into the drawer of his desk and saw a jewelry box nudged in the very back. Of course, I couldn't help myself and I opened it expecting to find a pair of cuff links. I barely opened it, saw a diamond ring and quickly snapped it shut. My immediate response was that it must have been the ring from his previous proposal but it was still shocking and thrilling. I spent the next three days working through my head what it could be. I had never seen the box before but I'm not sure I've dug that deep into his desk before. You could probably call me a snoop so if I had seen the box before, there is no doubt that I would have opened it.

We rarely speak of marriage and it is always in a future tense since we are still working on the idea of living together at some point. Neither of us is totally sold on marriage in general but I feel like he might be affected because most of his friends are about to get married or are already married with children. He is nearing 40 and has been talking a lot about getting his life on track. I can't understand why he would keep the ring from his past engagement I’m having trouble figuring out what to think but I have a very strong feeling that the ring is not intended for me.

I really just want to know where this ring came from. Is it possible that it was from his past engagement, and if so, what does that mean? Is he still holding on? Is it a reminder of what he doesn't want? If it's not from his past engagement, then is it for me? Did he buy it impulsively one day or has he been planning it out?

Should I tell him that I saw it or should I keep this secret to myself? If we ever do get engaged I want it to be a surprise and I want it to be for the best reasons. I don't know how I'll react either way, if it is for me (gasp!) or if it is from the past (weird).

I've been trying to put the image out of my mind since I saw it. I wish it had never happened. I can't talk to any of my friends about it because I know that they'll have biased opinions and then they'll be expecting something that might never happen. I want to feel neutral about the whole thing because I love this man so much, I don't want to be effected by something I saw accidentally. Please help!

confused & feeling secretive

Dear Confused and Feeling Secretive,

So I wish I could know who that ring did or did not belong to or it may or may not be gifted to. But, you and I both know that I’m wishing into the wind. You said “I have a very strong feeling that the ring is not intended for me” so I’m going to respond based on your gut feeling. Let this be a first Soap Box Therapy lesson of many to come that our gut is more often that not, worth listening to…

First of all my love, know that feeling totally out of sorts is so perfect. If you were feeling “neutral” then I really would be worried about you. So, embrace that crazy feeling in your stomach and let’s talk... No matter how you found the ring, or if you were looking for it or not, what you are really asking me is… does he love me or her? Am I the one or is his past winning out? Right?

So there are so many possible reasons your boyfriend’s past relationship ended, right? No matter what the reason is, my suspicion is that regardless of the fact that he is totally in love with you, he is still holding on to the hurt and has not fully moved on from that difficult situation in his life. I mean, lets break it down… he was manipulated into a proposal that he didn’t necessarily want by an ultimatum, and then he got burned and dumped. Um, hello! He probably felt lower and angrier than ever after that experience. Can we say trust issues? It’s so noble that you stuck with him and let him take the time he needed to feel safe in a new relationship. You are a gem.

The thing about pasts is that everyone has one. Everyone. And no matter how hard we wish… they don’t suddenly vanish once we come along and sweep our partners off their feet. As much as we want to deny that our partners might still be affected by their past once they fall madly and deeply in love with us… it’s just not the case. Our past is always present…

Now that we have established that we are listening to your gut and your boyfriend has a past…let’s talk about communication. The communication in your relationship around the subject of “the past” I suspect so far has been on his terms. Meaning he is pretty touchy about what went on and you’ve been the loving patient girlfriend and haven’t probed where you may not be welcomed with open arms. You’ve been kind and sweet, waiting for him to be ready to share himself. The issue is, when we don’t talk about things, it usually means we are still holding on.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to share everything about their past with their partner…I believe we all have the right to our own stories… but in this case I think it’s time to communicate and ask some questions.

Thank goodness all of that crap happened in his life because now you get him, it’s perfect! But you, you patient sweet loving woman, don't deserve for all his past stuff to find itself a nice little suppressed home in your relationship... Begin to talk to your partner. Don’t blame, don’t point fingers… just ask. Ask about his past. Tell him you are ready to know. Ask things like, “How did you feel when” and “How was that for you?” Tackle the underlying issues which are commitment, fear, untold stories, and communication in general. Make sure those issues are on the forefront of the conversation. It’s not the actual ring you want to talk about, but what it represents.

If it is a ring from his past the reason to keep it is because, to get rid of it officially means that the hurt is real, that it actually happened- that messed up horrible unfair situation actually happened. No more denial, no more suppressing the feelings. I would be utterly shocked if he sits there and gazes longingly at the ring everyday.... he doesn't love that girl anymore, he loves you. But that doesn't mean he is over it and not pissed or embarrassed or even a little shameful about what went down. That ring represents the ultimatum and all the crappy feelings and decisions that came along with it.

Forgive him for being human, for having a past and holding onto it. Thank his past for making him a stronger more careful and deliberate person. Remind him how amazing you are by creating the space for him to share and communicate and release the stories and the feelings he has been holding onto with an iron grip for years. No matter who that ring does, did, or will belong to... its time to start talking with your man.


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Friday, July 24, 2009

The thing about siblings...

Dear Brooke,

I am having a dilemma about how to handle a situation with my mother. I am 27 years old and realized when I went away to college that my mother's neediness had been an impediment to me during my childhood. I've worked out a lot of my issues with her and my father since then, but am currently stuck.

My brother is 19 and is living with my mom (my parents are recently separated). He doesn't go to college (dropped out of community college after a few months) and doesn't have a job. He is a great kid, but is very discouraged. He doesn't know what he wants to do and doesn't like to get suggestions. He was labeled as ADD very young and I believe my parents low expectations of him have led him to have this attitude.

Many people have told my mother (me included) that she needs to stop giving him money (which he uses to go out with friends and buy pot) but she has always been better at being a "friend" than a mother. I think she is scared that he will get really depressed and mad at her or she is just scared to assert herself as mother. Recently she said she was ready to put her foot down and tell him if he doesn't get a job she won't give him money. But she hasn't done it yet.

I was wondering how I can help in this situation? Should I tell her I won't speak to her until she does it? In the past I told her not to talk to me about my brother--that I don't want her talking to me about her problems in general--but I really care about him and nothing I do to try and help works. It should also be noted that my dad gives him money but has basically no relationship with him at all--not sure how he could make a difference but figured it was useful to note (especially since one of my mom's 'excuses' is that she has to handle the situation herself).

Any advice is much appreciated.

Sad Sister

Hi Sweet Darling,

First of all, I want to note it’s interesting that you started by asking me what to do about a situation with your mom, but signed the letter "sad sister"…You are in so many places at once, trying to fix so many relationships at the same time…

Ok, I’m just going to launch right into it… I think there is a part of you, deep down and totally unconsciously, that is having a hard time separating your relationship with your mom from your brothers’ relationship with your mom. I imagine that it’s hard for you to watch the unhealthiness between your mom and brother right before your eyes, similar to what you worked so hard to move past. Your moms “neediness”-her need to be a good mom, a good friend- is really hard for you to witness. You experienced it first hand and healed from it on so many levels. It makes sense that you would want your brother to move forward and experience that same healing. But my love, here’s the truth…you are not your brother, your brother is not you. Here’s why this is important to really understand…

Your journey went a little something like this… Your mother treated you like a friend and needed you to be a certain kind of person for her to feel like a good mom. You went away to college and finally got far enough out of the house to realize how much your mother’s stuff had been “impeding” on you. You did a ton of work on yourself and grew immensely. Now, you are a 27 year old strong amazing person…

Your little bro is on a different journey. He was home after you went away to college. He was there with your parents as they entered a place in their marriage where it became clear things weren’t going to work out. He was witness to that first hand, he literally lived it. That’s huge. There are so many maybes with him… maybe he wants to stay home because he just needs to right now. Maybe he is way sadder than you could ever imagine. Maybe he has been through stuff in life that you don’t realize. Maybe leaving for college is not the best thing for him right now… maybe it is. Maybe Maybe Maybe…

You don’t know for sure what your brothers going through because he is his own person. One thing I can promise you for sure is that he isn’t going through what you went through. The thing about siblings is that in many cases we grew up in the same home, with the same family, going to the same school, etc. but the trick is… we’re not the same. Relationships between siblings are the strongest when they allow each other to be who they are, and travel this life in the way they need to individually…and love each other despite their different paths.

Your brother has his own path…his own process. The most amazing beautiful thing you can do for him is to support and love him as he takes the steps that are right for him while not hoping or asking him to change. Have trust that he will get to where he needs to be when he needs to be there.

There are so many things happening in your family right now to be mindful of. Not only your brother, but take a moment to think about your mom and what she might be going through. Maybe she wants your brother to stay because her marriage just ended and she feels scared. Maybe she doesn’t want to be an empty nester. Maybe she can’t handle so much at once. Maybe she is way sadder than you can ever imagine. Maybe she has been for a long time. Maybe she is doing the best she can with what she has…Maybe Maybe Maybe.

My advice: Nurture the relationships that you have and that you are a part of. Call your brother. Ask him how he is. Listen. Tell him you love him. Call your mom. Ask her how she is. Listen. Tell her you love her. Cherish those relationships deeply, be deliberate about the energy and love you put into them. Be cognizant that people need different things at different times and just because they are family, it doesn’t mean we know what they’re going through. I know, you hate hearing that. You are doing so amazing and your heart could not be in a righter place.

PS…here is the most important part… your self care through all of this. Choose not to feel guilty for growing. Choose not to feel bad for moving forward. Here’s the deal... When we grow in our lives in some positive way a few things happen. 1, we think that everyone should go down the same path towards that growth because we want them to experience the same goodness we have and 2. if they don’t, we feel so guilty that we are happy and free which makes us want #1 even more. Get it? Choose not to let that happen. Let your mom go through the loss of her marriage and the possible loss of her son as he begins to grow. And let your brother be a separate fabulous guy and go on a separate fabulous journey. Be there to witness it. Tell him you love him. Yes, again. Do what you need to do for you and trust trust trust that on some level, your brother and mom are doing the same…

Ok, everyone take a big deep loving juicy breath. Virtual hugs from me to you gorgeous… like, a ton of them.


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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The thing about food...

So our bodies, these amazing gorgeous vessels, hold everything. Everything. All our stuff. Really. Like, all of it. When we are sad and don't tell anyone, that sadness gets stored in our bodies. When we are angry and don't communicate, that anger gets stored in our bodies. When we have scary and uncomfortable experiences... you guessed it, that fear hangs out in our bodies.

We end up with all of these emotions in our bodies that are filling us to the rim and are truly overwhelming to even think about. Like the closet you keep promising to clean out, but it's just way too huge a task to even start, so you don't, and then it just keeps getting more and more out of control and you become less and less likely to tackle it. Ya, this is like that.

Instead of taking on the massive and sometimes painful task of cleaning out our bodies, sharing our feelings and being…wait for it... vulnerable, SO many amazing beings just push it all away and cover it all up. It’s a good trick actually, it’s called denial.

For an unbelievable number of people, the cover-up of choice is food. The thing about food for so many amazing people is that it’s the perfect solid, dense, thick nothing-is-getting-past-this-sucker cover up. First, we push all the emotions and experiences that we aren't ready to release, we don’t want to talk about, and we don’t want to admit down into the depths of our bodies. Then we throw a bunch of food that we likely aren’t physically hungry for on top of them. Then, we win. ‘Cause the only feeling we have accessible is fullness. "I feel full.” No need to deal with any of the other feelings because fullness is here to save the day! Ya, you bet you're full-of everything other than food in the first place. Congratulations. Denial and suppression of your amazing perfect human feeling self…accomplished.

Oh, an important point... this doesn't just relate to those of you out there who have sadness, hurt, and anger. It's also for those of you who have unachieved potential, unmet self confidence, unaccomplished goals, etc. When we suppress anything, whether it’s a horrible trauma, a crappy break up, or an amazing part of ourselves that we haven't yet introduced to the world....we get full. And for human beings, it’s way easier to be full of food, than of feelings.

Here is the big announcement my loves… the food doesn’t make the feelings go away, it just tricks you into thinking they have. I’m not saying never again down a pint of double chocolate chunk after a royally crappy day… I’m just asking you to think about it.

Love love love,

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Monday, July 20, 2009

The thing about low self esteem...

Dear Brooke,

I heard about your blog and upcoming website and I thought I'd give it a try. Funny, we're both in the 'counseling' biz, but unfortunately, often times what I preach isn't always what I practice!

I'm a gay Latino dude in San Francisco. I was in an 8 year relationship but after a long grueling 8 years we decided to split/separate/divorce/get the hell out of each other's site because it wasn't working. I noticed patterns of abuse developing over the years but spent a lot of hours in therapy either ignoring or just suppressing what I really wanted, which was to find a guy that was as cool as me, but not so intense and definitely not an alcoholic.

So I've taken a year hiatus since my last relationship to be with myself. I've enjoyed it, but lately as I think most human creatures do, wanted to find some company. I found another cool gay Latino dude in Southern California, where I used to live and decided hey, why not give it a shot!?

So, I planned a weekend to go to visit my new "bu" and we laughed, we cried, we talked, we ate, we ate some more and then we drank too much. It was great to talk politics, life, culture, literature- up until we got kicked out of two bars because of his obnoxious behavior. He literally turned into some psycho demon from planet Smirnoff! He threw a drink at the doorman, telling him to “f*#k off” and totally ignored me until we returned to his house. Despite the night and in the midst of his begging, I decided to forget the night and just say “hey, we all have a bad night!”

The next night, he drank too much again, and got kicked out of restaurant.....yeah, a restaurant, my favorite one in Southern California, for the same behavior. I think that time he actually spit his drink on someone. At his house, I confronted his issues with liquor and being upset he became defensive and started insulting me about things that really made little to no sense. Something about my grammar? Before I knew it he kicked me out of his apartment, while throwing my bag/clothes and whatever out the door! I tried to go back, but he threatened me!

SO I hurried to grab all my stuff and called my ex boyfriend to seek shelter/refuge/some one to calm me down. I left in desperation, and with so much sadness disappointment. SO my question is how do you get over the disappointment and the hope that this person ever change? I hate the saying 'love takes time' but what else can I do? Should I even do anything? I feel like I'm getting too old for this. I guess I need some validation for not putting up with BS and ending the enabling.........

Bipolar disaster lover.

Oh my darling dearest Bipolar-disaster-lover,

Here’s the deal. First of all, you are officially validated for “no longer putting up with BS and giving up the enabling”. That being said, let’s talk about patterns.

We all have patterns. In love-in life-in everything in between. Some patterns are fabulous and work well for us…and some don’t. Our patterns in love stick around until we either give up and settle, get so hurt we wake up and change, or reach out and ask for help because we feel in our gut that something is just not right. You are stuck in a pattern of being with people who are not healthy (this guy…not healthy) so I’m glad you asked for some guidance…but just because you’re asking, doesn’t mean it’s going be easy to hear the answer.

My first question is: do you really want to change? Do you really want a better, healthier, more mature relationship? Because you say it well and you say it proud, but the truth is you, honey child, are just saying it. I know love, I know. But it’s true. It sounds good, it sounds noble, it sounds healthy…but it’s just talk. Let me explain…

One of my favorite questions to ask in therapy is “Has it traveled through your neck?” This means, you’re thinking good thoughts in your head, you are definitely smart enough to really understand that you want to find a good healthy partner who doesn’t have an alcohol problem and isn’t abusive to your personhood. But these amazing ideas, these perfect understandings are stuck in that head of yours… they haven’t traveled through your neck; they haven’t touched your heart. You are intellectualizing love, you are thinking, not feeling. But there is a reason for that…low self-esteem. Same reason you “ignored” and “suppressed” in therapy in the past. Your heart doesn’t think it deserves these good juicy thoughts.

So imagine this… there is this gorgeous ball of gold goodness in your heart but it’s surrounded by yuck. It’s caked with past hurt, family ick, and experiences you would rather forget. There is literally a film of low self-esteem covering up your inner gold! The low self-esteem does everything in its power to make sure that “I want and deserve a good healthy fabulous person to share my life with” never gets through to your heart. It’s like the ideas are one side of a magnet and the self esteem is the other… they just can’t get close… one keeps the other away.

A challenge from me to you… or maybe, a gift: Work on building your self esteem. This is going to take a ton of work and commitment. Chip away at that gunk on your heart and reveal that inner ball of gorgeous gold that you and every other human has inside. You are a smart, strong, proud Latino man who anyone would be lucky to be with…so start acting like it! Have you ever seen an extremely confident person allow themselves to be treated the way you got treated last weekend? Um, I don’t think so. Do you deserve a delicious fantastic human being as a partner? Of course you do. Are you a delicious fantastic human being? Of course you are… if you want to be. If you choose to be. So choose.

The thing about low self esteem is that when it’s loud and present, and we aren’t truly madly deeply ready to work on it, we unconsciously seek out partners who will help us out in keeping our self esteem exactly where it is. Low. If we’re not ready to change, we’re not going to find someone who will push us. We like to be comfortable. Period.

Patterns are hard to break. It’s uncomfortable! As soon as you’re ready though, as soon as you believe you are lovable and truly deserve happiness you will find someone who is kind, smart, funny and who doesn’t abuse substances or people. Then you will most likely feel a little… bored. Where’s the drama? Where are the games and the making me feel like crap? But hold tight… that’s just growing pains… your patterns are changing. Congratulations.

Love love love,



Friday, July 17, 2009

The thing about this economy...

Dear Brooke,
Here is my dilemma:

My husband and I own a lake house and love to have weekend guests to share it with. I have no problem providing the accommodations (beds; bath, etc); the issue is more about food and gas for water toys.

The lake house is in a small town with one grocery store which is extremely over-priced. With that said – I do most of my grocery shopping in the larger towns nearby (45 – 60 minutes away) to save money as well as buying better quality foods. We also do not have many restaurants nearby. Since I buy most if not all the food – having people over gets costly in this economy. I end up preparing and buying all the meals. It gets awkward to ask people to bring food or meals, as does asking them to chip in on gas for the “toys”.

I am not sure the best way to handle this without alienating friends and family but affording all this is getting to be an issue. I hate the idea of waiting for company to arrive and then making a trip to the local store since the selection is limited and the quality not great.
Any suggestions or advice?

Not Lady Jane

Dear Not Lady Jane,

Wow, lucky you!! You have a lake house to escape to! And lucky your friends and family that get to come and relax also…on your dime! HELLO! The thing about this economy is that… we’re all in it. Together. If alienating your friends and family would be the result of being a realistic human being who doesn’t happen to have a money tree growing in the back yard, well then, I’m not sure what to say about that. My guess is, your friends and family are perplexed as to how you have even been affording these getaways, food, toys, etc… so it’s time to let them in on your little secret, and get realistic.

So many people are under the false impression that they need money to make and keep friends. They need things to buy people’s respect. Well, you are too fabulous to worry about impressing people either with your stuff or with your ability to provide everything for everyone. You are too fabulous to be friends with people who love you conditionally. I hereby release you of being an over the top superhuman. So, gather your understanding and cool normal human friends and here’s what you do…

This economy calls for some major creativity and community. My proposal is this: Move away from the “NLJ 4 star Hotel” model and towards the “Participate, pitch in, and don’t be a mooch” model. Here’s what I mean…

People like to feel included, involved, and like they matter…

Step 1. Go to a website like and get help creating a menu for the weekend away. A site like this has recipes that are cheap and easy, but creative and fun to make. Write down the menu with all of the ingredients, prep time, and leave a space for “head chef”

Step 2: Send the menu to your friends coming to stay. Either in email form or drop it off at their place. Attach a cute letter saying something along the lines of… “We are so eager for this weekend! We know it’s going to be so much fun. So, please check out the menu below, ‘cause we’re trying something new! Each family/couple will pick a meal to manage. For that meal you will bring the ingredients and any sides you want to add and the rest of the group will be your cooking staff!! The Not Lady Jane’s will provide the kitchen of course, appetizers, and beverages. We are so excited to cook good food with good company. YUM! See you Friday!”

A project like this will challenge you to release some control and count on others. But it will also build your creativity and ability to be realistic and inclusive. Not only will you be the hostess with the mostess, but you will have shown that you are human and not just a friend with money...leading to tons of respect from everyone around you. Who knows, maybe your friends will even feel more comfortable confiding in you about their money challenges!

And as far as asking for gas for the water toys... Just ask. Really, just ask. Make a cute little “gas for toys” container and ask everyone to contribute. If they leave in a huff because they were asked to respectfully add to the pot… let them leave. And don’t ask them back. They’re not cool enough for you. Period.

I can only hope that the upside of these challenging economic times is more creativity, more respect for material things and more appreciation for the people in our hearts, rather than the stuff in our space. Hopefully this is the start…and when that money tree again begins to sprout in your backyard, I hope you continue to leave your super human cape at home.



Thursday, July 16, 2009

The thing about loss...

Dear Brooke,

I recently broke up with my boyfriend and although I initiated it, I've been pretty sad ever since. It's funny, I actually thought I would be able to bypass all that yucky breakup stuff because it wasn't dramatic, nobody was angry, and I genuinely thought it was a good idea. The actual event was fine, heartbreaking, but it went smoothly. I still do think I did the right thing although breaking up with anyone regardless of the person, scenario, or relationship an utterly gut-wrenching experience.

Anyway, I've been going through various waves of emotion the past few weeks and basically just trying to get my bearings and breathe and move on. Since the moment I cut this person loose, this person that I care about, my entire attitude flipped around. Before, I felt stuck, like I couldn't accomplish anything. There was this person that was holding me back from life and causing me to feel very stagnant and old. And then after "fixing" my situation, ie, breaking up with him, suddenly I was racked with all of this fear and the qualities in him I was condemning seemed so trivial!

I would think "So what if he's got his quirks and he can't dance and doesn't make me laugh? He genuinely cares about my successes and failures and listens to me when I need to vent, and does nice things for me, and is a grown up, and etc, etc” And I suddenly started to say to myself, "You idiot, now you've gone and done it. Good luck ever finding that again, plus all the other things that you want."

I keep going on and on back and forth in my head, till I can’t tell what's real and what's not, what I truly feel and what's just fear. There's all this residue, it feels, of past trauma bubbling to the surface pointing me in different directions and spinning out of control (I lost my mom and broke up with my last boyfriend around the same time).

I can't help but wonder, is this what happens to people? Slowly but surely, as we go from relationship to relationship and endure pain and heartache and the intense experience of falling in love and losing people we bond with, are we cutting off from our abilities to actually be in a functional relationship? Or is it all ingrained in us from childhood, and our parents, etc? I'm so freaking confused with love that I just don't want to be a part of it. But I know I don't want to be alone, so here I am...totally terrified of both being in a relationship (committing to someone, sleeping in the same bed, sharing my time) and not being in a relationship (bitterness, chocolate, movies, and loads of loneliness)

What the hell is up with this awful dilemma?


Utterly Confused.

My Darling Confused,

What are we really talking about here? Loss. OK, get some tissue because the loss of your mom has a lot to do with all of this. Here we go.

You are looking for a partner, not a mother. A good mother (using your quote about your ex) “genuinely cares about your successes and failures and listens to you when you need to vent, and does nice things for you, and is a grown up, etc. etc…” a good partner is and does those things too, but is also someone you can have fun with, laugh with, and grow with...oh, and hopefully you want to have sex with too, but you knew that. It seems like this guy was a great parental figure for you (you even said he made you feel old!), and filled a much needed space for you at the time. He’s not a bad person…he’s just not your person.

This sadness and confusion you feel is so right on, so appropriate, so perfect. Let me explain…Every time you have a loss, a little piece of the emotion you felt when you lost your mother will come to surface. For you, loss=losing mom. So, losing a boyfriend= a little bit of losing mom. It’s just the way we work…and it sucks sometimes, but it’s actually pretty amazing how our inner worlds function. Our emotions take every opportunity they can to release what our brains and hearts have been holding onto. This is nothing short of an amazing opportunity for you. So it’s time, you beautiful woman, to do some work on your relationship.... with loss.

The thing about loss is that so many people who lose a loved one look everywhere to try and replace that person in some way, usually without even knowing that they’re doing it, and they end up with someone who’s not everything they want or need.

It seems you are smart enough to know that although you have not fully (no such thing really) moved through the loss of your mother, you are still not looking to replace her. You get it. If you didn’t get it, you would still be dating that nice guy who happens to make you feel old and stagnant and isn’t everything you are looking for. You would have settled to be with someone who gave you some mom-taking-care-of-you energy and filled the empty space. But, you broke it off… so you get it. Congratulations, you are an emotionally developed star.

And by the way…Of course you are confused between being committed and being single. It's natural to want a relationship, you’re human. But you went through such a profound loss that it's no wonder you don't ever really want to fall into attachment, for fear of losing again. Utterly confused…ya, makes perfect sense.

Loss is not fun. Neither is settling for someone not right for you for all the wrong reasons. My advice: Go through the loss. Feel it. Think about your mom. Grieve. Respect the challenge. Be sad. Be sad. And then be sad a little more. Oh, and then be sad more. And cry a lot. Like, a ton. Realize that you have a relationship with loss that is unique to you and you get to take as long as you want to work on it. And when you’re ready, begin your healthy relationship with loss.

Emerge into the world one layer stronger, with more tools in your life-box. And then embrace the loving space in your heart that belongs to your mom and honor her by not trying to replace her. One day, you will find the person that you love and loves you back, and you’ll be with them through and through, with a little less fear that you will lose them, and a little more comfort in the possibility that you might.

With Love,



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The thing about balance...

Dear Brooke,

I have been engaged for over a year and I am about to get married in August. I am very excited to have the wedding (planning) to be over with, and to start our married life together. My fiancé is doing very well in his career and has made significant advances at a very young age and I am so proud of him! I received my masters degree and have a job that I feel 50/50 about....I am not super attached to it, and don't plan on doing what I am doing forever.

My family lives out of the state and his family lives a short road trip away. I really want to join my family. Not only to be close to family, but to also be able to buy a house together! Currently we live in a city where it is impossible for us to ever be able to afford to buy a property. I refuse to pay rent the rent the rest of my life. I want a house where I can paint and knock down a wall if I want and a yard for our kids to play in one day...etc.

My fiancé, who once seemed on board for moving, now all of the sudden seems to be increasingly more apprehensive. I am a planning person and want to know where we will be in two, three...five years....I don't want to be selfish...especially because my fiancé is very attached to his work. I decided I was not going to bring this up with him until after the wedding…but I’m feeling stressed.

What should we/I do? I am feeling stuck, sad, and confused, and could use some guidance.


Dear Unsettled,

What a perfect metaphor. You are engaged and not sold on your career and are looking for something to ground you and settle a house. Neither renting the rest of your life nor owning are right or wrong, but both hold a certain stereotype and significance, let’s be honest. Renting… where to next? Owning…stay a while.

In my view, each human being has a certain capacity for the unknown, for that unsettled what’s coming next feeling. It sounds to me like you my darling dear, are at capacity. The amount of unknown and fear and oh my god and holy crap and pretending that everything is perfect that comes along with being engaged and planning a wedding in the first place is enough to put anyone over the edge!! But on top of it you don't love your career! Helloooo! It makes perfect sense that you would want a house, representing solidity and a foundation...being settled. Ahhh, to be settled, to land, to root down. Delish.

Funny though…the thing you say about a house is that you want to have a wall to knock down....everyone needs a project, a work in progress when everything else is settled…something to balance you out. The thing about balance is that when it comes down to it, it’s what we’re really searching for. Like, all the time. You, my love, are off balance… but there’s hope. Seriously.

Take Mr. Fiancé for example…Maybe renting a place with the possibility of living differently than he had planned (buying a home) is balancing the success and satisfaction he is experiencing in his career. He is settled and happy with what he is doing and all of the sudden…he no longer feels the need to move. He has enough solidity that a little unknown is just what the doctor ordered.

There is nowhere in your life right now that the solidity is shining for you, you are all unknown-ed out. So your feelings make more sense than you know. My suggestion to you is this: take a breath and wait. Wait until your marriage is solidified and the wedding is over. Be settled and secure in your relationship and notice how it feels. That’s it? Ya, that’s it.

I can only guarantee you one thing. If you are unsettled within yourself, in your career, and in your relationship all at the same time then no house and no wall to paint is going to solve anything for you. It’s just going to add to the to-do list that is making up your life right now. Allow yourself to feel the sweetness of being settled, hang out there for a while and then maybe, just maybe you’ll be ready to think about knocking down walls.

Balanced and Solid…sometimes,


Monday, July 13, 2009

The thing about being human...

The thing about being human is that we all are. Human, I mean.

A good friend of mine calls me and often begins our conversations with “hi, am I crazy?” and then proceeds to describe a feeling or a behavior that seems perfect and reasonable to me, but something inside of her questions that possibility. After listening to her predicament I usually say “You’re not crazy. Welcome to being human.”

“Why do we think about these things and do these things, but no one else does?” she says. Usually my reply sounds something like this: “(laugh, sigh) No one else? HA!”

Being human can feel like a disease sometimes. We run and hide from it, clean our hands a million times a day so we don’t get it--this yuck that is emotion, challenge, fear, and imbalance. We are all so afraid to embrace and be proud of the craziness inside because we assume it’s well, crazy. But the truth is we are all falling off balance, off kilter, and onto the crazy train because our idea of normal is totally completely and utterly…off.

What if “crazy” became the new it thing? What if feeling overwhelmed or insecure or the plethora of other feelings we usually experience secretly became, wait for it…popular. Sought after…umm, trendy? Like a new pair of jeans. What if it was trendy to be a mess? Not like a Hollywood rehab kind of thing, but human and confused and stressed and trying to make it all work and practicing and breathing and and and and. Would we love ourselves more? Would we accept ourselves more? What if being a real human, a perfect mess, was the new trend?

And that’s the thing about being. Human that is.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The thing about LOVE...

Dear Brooke,

I'm a 37 year old Jewish woman and I come from a fairly "traditional" family. Dad was a doctor, mom stayed home and raised the kids, never really had her own career-really focused her life on raising two daughters. She did a great job, we all turned out well, got good educations, good jobs, and are relatively well adjusted.

I went through a divorce 5 years ago from my Jewish husband and shed the life that I always thought I was supposed to have. It was a pretty traditional marriage in the sense that he expected me to do more around the house, etc. but the interesting part is that I was also the primary breadwinner. I had a well paying marketing job which I didn't love, and he was following his passion to start a charter school from the ground. This was tough for me, and felt really stressful. As we started to think about having kids, it became clear that this relationship was not going to work.

So now its 5 years later, I've done a lot of work on myself. I have now been in a relationship with a French man for a year. He's not Jewish, but that hasn't really been an issue. I'm starting to stress out about a number of things right now because we've started to talk about having a family. My stress is leading to fear, and I feel myself getting uptight and resentful about some of the same things that I focused on in my marriage. The main difference between my relationship now and my relationship with my ex husband is that I really do love him. But, my boyfriend does not have a career and is making no money. It has been fine for the past year because I make enough money to pay for us both for a variety of things but when I think about potentially raising a family with this man, I feel the stress of being the primary bread winner and the mom.

I know that love is all you really need. My problem is I'm struggling with that. I can't imagine breaking up with him over this. But at the same time, if I want to have a family, I sort of have to start in the next year or so.... agh. very confusing. I want to believe he'll step up and change and be able to hold a job. But do I go into this and just assume I'll be the primary (and maybe only) breadwinner in the family, or do I walk away knowing that this is one of my issues that I just know is going to be a problem down the road....

What would you do?

Anxious and Confused, but in Love,
Hopeful Hannah

Dear Hopeful Hannah, you gorgeous woman,

There are so many things I want to say and know more about, especially the comment you made about your mom that she “never really had her own career"…

But when it comes down to it, what are we really talking about here? Love.

This is the way I believe it will go… You hope for something to happen (for him to get or keep a job, etc. and you get to stay home with your kids, etc). It doesn’t. You have sadness which turns into resentment (which you said you already have a little of -bad sign). Resentment turns into lack of respect. And lack of respect ultimately chips away at the love that you convinced yourself would make everything last forever.

My hopeful darling...although it is very romantic and beautiful to think that love will conquer all, the thing about love is that…it just doesn’t…conquer all that is. Love includes so many things… respect being one of them. You didn’t have the love with your ex husband that you wanted and that you truly deserve. That doesn’t mean that love is all you’re looking for! I ask you to think bigger than that. You are still on the lookout for everything you deserve- the big picture- love...and respect. Not perfection, but what’s right for you- to be with a person you are proud of and who will work with you to create the life you want.

It sounds to me like you weren’t happy with the way things went with your ex, so you are searching for something that feels NOTHING like that… interestingly enough, you have found yourself in a very similar situation on some level. Though a different religion, and different feelings, you are still with a man who lets you rule the roost. Seems like you keep looking for someone to take care of you, but continue to find yourself taking care of for thought...

On the other end of the spectrum… if you do in fact have interest in being in a relationship where you are the bread winner and your husband/boyfriend/father of your children is a stay at home dad… all the power to you!! There is a new book out called “The Daddy Shift” (J.Smith) which I recommend if you are headed in that direction. It’s a progressive and beautiful way to live if it’s right for you. But, if it’s not, then it seems to me you have a lot to think about…

Love is amazing and wonderful and confusing and and and… Love is SO strong that it can make us believe that it can beat any challenge, or make everything confusing seem clear. Unfortunately, it’s a trick. Love is not all you need. Relationships are like houses. Love is in fact the foundation...but there’s a whole lot more to build on top of it.

With respect,

Friday, July 10, 2009

The thing about asking me for advice...

The thing about asking me for advice is that you can… and you should.

And here’s how.

Send an email to with your question. Ask me about life, love, work… and everything and anything in between.

I’ll be able to see your email address, but that’s it… no one else will know your identity. Sign your question with the name you would prefer to be used on Soap Box Therapy. Dear Abby style my darlings.

Not all questions will be responded to…bummer, I know. But check back onto the blog to see if your question is posted!

Just as a little disclaimer… I may edit your question for Soap Box Therapy. I will never change the integrity of your question, or add things to your voice, but I may need to make it shorter for the site, etc.…just as a heads up.

Ok, ask away!

That’s the thing about asking me for advice!

The thing about purses...

Ha, I think I needed to hear that it's okay I'm not "perfect" today! I left my purse at a very busy public park this evening. Luckily my knight in shining armor (aka my husband) hopped on his scooter to retrieve it for me when I realized what I had done. Even more luckily it was still there an hour and a half after I left it, thanks to some wonderful strangers who spotted it and kept it safe for me! I can't believe I did that -- it is the third time I have lost/almost lost my purse in 15 months. Didn't have a problem with this until recently, so what gives?

The thing about purses is that they really are… our baggage.

Our purses are so representative of our crap, our to-do list, our money, and everything in between… and we lug it around on our shoulders! Nuts. How many times have you heard a woman say “my life is in this bag!” I know I’ve even said it.

So my love, from over here it seems like you are asking the universe for a break. Just take my to-do list, take my crap and just hold it for a minute and let me BREATHEEEEEE! Let me roll my shoulders, let my neck drop and just not have anything on my plate. Seriously, I’m done. Let me be oblivious of all my responsibilities and run free of my bag and my baggage.

The universe truly gave you and your shoulder some time to breathe. My suggestion you perfect being you, turn off your phone and go get a massage… sounds like you need a little break from it all.

And that’s the thing about purses…

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The thing about Soap Box Therapy...

The thing about Soap Box Therapy is that it’s about celebrating human condition…

We are all a frickin’ mess on some level. It’s just the way it goes, so welcome to life, stay a while. So stop trying so hard to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous… cause you already are, just by breathing. If you feel like you’re trying too hard, you are. That’s it. Really, that’s it.

Here’s my shtick… I don’t know you, but I know if you are human, and I’m assuming you are, that you are beautiful- because that’s just how I roll. But you are also not perfect. Sorry to break it to you, darling. That's OK though because perfection isn’t allowed in our little club. If you are perfect, go back to your planet, because earth doesn’t want you, you little alien child.

Soap Box Therapy is about connecting to one another with no judgment, no should’s, just connection, acceptance for where you are in the moment, and maybe a little sprinkle of tough love… oh, and I might talk about your childhood a bit. Sorry.

It’s important to get some food for thought once in a while, some advice about all the little things and big things that drive you nuts, that take up space in your mind, that cause ick in your body. And sometimes you don’t want to ask, you just want to listen and see if there is something you connect with, something that perks your interest and reminds you that you are in fact still a part of things.

There are also going to be times you don’t want to feel better…. You just want to eat the pint (or gallon depending on the situation) of ice cream and call it a night, or a week, or whatever.

I’m not here to push you to be ready for something your not, to feel something you don’t. But when you’re ready to go there, I’ll be waiting… on my soap box.

And that’s the thing about Soap Box Therapy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The thing about me...

The thing about me is that I’m an opinion person.

I have opinions about, well, pretty much everything. I'd love to say that I’m always right, but I know I’m not, and that’s what makes me human. My passion is voicing my opinions. The best moments are when, in doing so, I make someone think...just a little bit differently than they did before. Maybe with more openness, more humility, or maybe just a little less self judgment and hatred. Call me humanitarian.

As a kid, my best friends were a large rock in front of my house, my Tiffany tape which covered hits such as “I Think We're Alone Now”, and my mom (priming me for co-dependence and enmeshment issues, but more on that another time). My kindergarten teacher Mrs. Zilkie thought I was the best thing since sliced bread, and told people to “watch out for Brooke, she is going to make something of herself.” A year later in first grade, I got stuck in a bathroom stall and thought I was going to die there…so much for making something of myself. It was the first and only time in my life that I didn’t speak up. I didn’t yell or scream. I just sat there and hoped someone would come, someone would find me, rescue me. But as it turns out, you have to speak to be heard, who knew?

And that’s why I’m here. This is a space for you to speak up, ask for help, be heard, and listen. It’s a space for me to help you out—this is after all, what I do for a living. And I love talking. My therapist friends call me an “extroverted thinker”-- basically a really nice way of saying that I put it all out there. And they’ve also told me I’m smart. So I’m going with it… I’m not only saying, but writing what I think. And being smart about it.

So speak up, be heard, and listen…lets see what happens.

And that’s the thing about me.