Women reading a book
Christy Gualtieri

Our Special Faults

“A year seems very long to wait before I see them, but remind them that while we wait we may all work, so that these hard days need not be wasted. I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.” – A letter from Father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

For Mother’s Day this year, my husband took our kids out to give me some much-desired alone time; and with my quiet house, I did what any sensible mother would do with two hours in a row of time on her hands: I watched Little Women (the BBC adaptation is especially lovely) and cried my eyes out. It wasn’t my first time seeing this version, but I particularly love the sweeping, gorgeous cinematography and how well Marmee’s character was portrayed, and one little bit that I hadn’t thought about much last time I saw it really stood out to me this time. It was in a letter the little women get from their father, who is serving as a military chaplain in the Civil War:

“…will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully…”

Bosom enemies? I didn’t really know what that meant, but I understood the concept of “conquering myself” – trying to overcome my faults in order to be a better person.  From what I understand, the term “bosom enemies” refers to those things which particularly harm us, those special vices that we tend to struggle with more than others. If I spend some time thinking about mine, I can come up with my list fairly easily, but what really struck me was the fighting them part.  I can identify and list what my vices are, but am I actively doing anything to fight them? I’ll admit, it’s taken me a lot of years to even figure out what the heck they are, thanks in no small part to the work I’ve done in therapy over the last ten years, but now that I know what they are and what to do about them, am I following through?

The answer is… not always yes.  

I do try, of course, but most times I’m just content with the idea that I know what my struggles are. I do forget, though, that just labeling it is not enough. I think there is a great freedom in knowing that we do have what it takes to conquer what’s worst about ourselves, even if we don’t have it yet. It’s a skill we can learn to develop, with time and patience and knowledge of who we are. We can start small too, and over time, we can grow out of – and eventually conquer – those things about ourselves that give us the most trouble. (Disclaimer: I’m not referring to the physical aspect of mental illnesses, like chemical imbalances and things like that that are treated with medication. If your condition requires medical treatment, please make sure to follow your doctor’s orders!)

So, what about you? What are your bosom enemies, those special faults” unique to you that you know you can change? How can you fight them? The girls of Little Women resolved hard to grow out of them, and as they grew up they succeeded! Their example still serves us well, 150 years later. We can do it, too! 

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineAbout the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Two women having a conversation with coffee
Christy Gualtieri

Words Matter, Choose Good Ones

I don’t know if this is a trait more particular to women than men, but when I am struggling with an idea or wrestling with my feelings, I like to talk about them. I need to use words to figure out what I’m thinking, like the words themselves help me navigate how I’m feeling about things. And last week was a tough week. I was grappling with some issues that were really near and dear to my heart and my community. And much like me, the people in that community dealt with those same difficult and confusing issues by talking.

But you know how it is when people talk: it can very easily go from “let’s work this issue out,” to “here’s a bunch of hurtful words.” The transition from mercy to gossip can be really quick, almost like a current. Before you know it, you’re swept away in the feelings of anger, disgust, and confusion that can threaten to swallow you whole if you’re not careful.

And, to be honest with you, it’s hard to be careful with what we say. It’s hard to think first and add to the conversation later. It’s natural: we want to be heard. We want to be validated, we want to be right. It’s hard to override that impulse to have our voices heard, even if the things we say can be hurtful or mean. I personally struggle a lot with where the line is between venting and gossip. But I do know that gossip hurts. I have gossiped and been the one gossiped about. And I have felt terribly on both sides.

But then, a wonderful thing happened. I called a friend of mine I haven’t spoken to in years (not on purpose; it had just been a while). I asked for advice, and I got some wonderful encouragement. I was challenged – but lovingly – and I was able to voice my concerns, and as I hung up the phone, I felt better than I had felt in days.

This is important: I didn’t see my friend. I spoke on the phone with them. But just the same, their words – those lifted me up. They were life-giving. They were affirming, and they made a difference.

What you say is important, and the words you use carry a great power to them, even if you don’t think so. And so I want to offer you a little challenge: for the next few days, make an effort to speak carefully. Just take a minute before talking – a small pause, not even a full minute – and even if what you have to say is difficult, try as hard as you can to say those words with love.  Then simply observe. Observe how you feel. Observe how the other person reacts.

Sometimes it’s tempting to think that we aren’t good enough; that what we say doesn’t matter. But it does – even the small things (especially the small things). Thank you for all the times that your words have brought life, joy, and encouragement to another person. That will inspire them to speak in kind, and remember that their words will help you too, one day.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineAbout the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Group of friends smiling and taking a selfie
Christy Gualtieri

Confidence of Character

When I was a kid, I loved watching The Monkees on TV.  It aired really early in the morning, like 4:00 a.m. or some other ridiculous time, and since I was a kid before the glory days of DVR, I had to set my alarm to get up to watch it. I’d sneak out of my room and over to the TV, and flip it on to watch before I got back into bed. Davy Jones was my favorite -to me, he was the cutest one – but I loved the whole show: the slapstick, the songs, and all of the jokes. When Jones passed away some years ago, I was so sad; and when another of The Monkees, Peter Tork, passed away recently, I was saddened, too.

Peter was my second favorite on the show, and I was always drawn to him the same way I was drawn to George Harrison from the Beatles and Howie from the Backstreet Boys – these guys who weren’t the stars of the show, but people who contributed just the same. Maybe they stood out to me because their personalities seemed so different than mine, but I really think it’s because they were quieter people who didn’t need the spotlight as much.

You might know people like this in real life: people who know who they are, who are self-assured and confident in themselves. Maybe you’re even one of these people, and if you are, I salute you! I find it difficult for me to have that self-confidence that is content with my life and the way I live it. It’s a funny thing, because it’s the opposite of what you’d think is true: the more self-assured you are, the less you need outside validation – and the more people will probably end up validating you, because they’re drawn to you.

Maybe not right away, though. I think a lot of people, especially these days, get caught up in the flashiness, the glitz and the glamour – the costumes, and not the costume designer, so to speak. But there is a great value in being the one who doesn’t need the world to tell them how to be. They are themselves, uniquely themselves, and it’s a wonderful thing to see because it’s authentic, it’s real, and because there is only one you on the planet, it’s irreplaceable.

So to those of you who are the quiet ones that know who they are and who live that well, keep it up! And for those of you who are quiet and think you’re invisible, you’re not. People see you. By all means, reach out to others if you feel alone, but know that if your personality runs contrary to the people in society who think that you’re nobody if you don’t shout everything all the time, it’s okay to just be yourself. You’re just as needed and as valuable as everyone else.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineAbout the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online
Christy Gualtieri

Setting Yourself Up For Success

by Christy Gualtieri

What’s that you asked? How’s my New Year’s resolution going? Oh! Um…great! Best New Year’s resolution execution ever! 2019 sure seems to be my year!

…I’m just kidding. It’s not that it’s not going super well, it’s that I didn’t set any resolutions for myself this year. As a person who struggles with anxiety, I know myself well enough at this point not to try to add anything to my life that will cause more stress if it doesn’t get done the way I’d like.

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to become better at things, whether it’s eating more healthfully, cleaning up and organizing my home, or developing skills that can help me in the workplace or with my parenting. And to that end, I’ve been trying to keep in mind an adage that was shared with me years ago, called “Setting Up For Success.”

Before I had kids, I worked at a coffee shop, and my wonderful manager was a big fan of this philosophy. No matter which shift we worked: eye-drooping 5 a.m. openings, middle of the day “princess shifts,” or busy nighttime closings, she made sure that we not only tended to the things we needed to do for ourselves, but kept things running smoothly for the folks coming in after us. “Set them up for success,” she’d remind us daily. It’s something I’m trying to implement more in my life.

But how do we do that, set ourselves up for success? Here are a few tips that seem to be helping me right now, I hope they’ll help you too!

  1. Make a plan. Take some quiet time to ask yourself what you want in life. Don’t downplay it. Do you want to be healthier? You want to be a rockstar? NBA player? Author? Interior designer? And this doesn’t apply to just careers, by the way. Think personality. Do you want to be more loving? More patient? Less gossipy? Friendlier? All of those are laudable goals, too.
  2. Get Educated.  Read as much as you can about what you want to work on the most. If it’s not too much of a temptation to you do be around it, find some good social media sources for inspiration.  Take a class, if you’re so inclined. Utilize your local library and check out apps like Hoopla that you can use to download free content to your mobile devices using your library card.
  3. Set goals. Make them broad as can be, then whittle them down to the itty-bitty.  When writing a to-do list, put “make a to-do list” at the top as the first item so you can feel good when you cross it off. Rockstars don’t just go from the garage to the Hall of Fame. Do your research, break down your steps, and get on your way. If you think it’ll help you, tell others about your goals, so they can help to encourage you.  But if you think they’ll hold you back, there’s no shame in keeping them to yourself for a while!
  4. Work with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Sure, it looks glamorous when those fitness Instagrammers are saluting the sun at the crack of dawn, but if you’re naturally a night owl, don’t try to squeeze in those early-morning asanas. Work to find time in the afternoon or early evening to get that workout in.
  5. Think ahead. Try to think ahead to the things you’ll need to do each day.  Download organizer apps or buy a paper planner to help keep you on track for all you’ll need to prepare for what’s going on from day to day. That way, you’ll feel less unprepared. And when it’s hard to do the things you need to prepare ahead of time, do what you can to just power through.

Hopefully this little reminder that we can still look towards getting through 2019 more improved than we were when we came into it will help you! I hope that you accomplish everything you set out to do. And if not, no worries. There’s always next year!

Until next time, be well!
Christy