Forming My Identity
I grew up in a small conservative town in Indiana and began to question my worldview when I attended a large liberal university. That experience of two constrasting environments threw my background, my future, my significant relationships, and even my identity into doubt. Shortly after my graduation, I experienced a dramatic religious conversion, which caused me to rethink the direction that my life would take.
A year later, I went to graduate school, which was a time of integrating psychology and spirituality, and I was especially drawn to the emerging theories in the field of family therapy. At that time it was relatively new to view mental health issues as a product of a family “system” and to treat the whole family rather than just the individual. I did not immediately pursue more training in family therapy, but in subsequent jobs, this approach affected how I viewed the relationship problems I encountered in those settings.
My jobs following graduation included being a live-in houseparent at a Children’s Home, and a live-in hall director and counselor at a small Christian college. Although these environments were very different, many of the relationship difficulties that people experienced were similiar. As I was about to turn thirty, I decided to pursue my life-long dream of becoming a marriage and family therapist and sought training in this area at an accredited counseling center. In addition to seeing clients at my internship setting, I also worked part-time at an adolescent clinic, where I worked with teenagers and their families. I continued to work there even after my internship ended. I also worked briefly at an in-patient substance abuse hospital during this time.
Marriage and Family
A new chapter of my life began when I became a wife and mother after thirty-three years as a single, career woman. Because I was older when I became a wife and mother, I never took that privilege for granted. I met my future husband at the church I was attending, and after knowing each other for three years, we decided to get married. That marriage lasted until esophageal cancer took his life twenty-seven years later. I was truly blessed by being married to a man for whom I never lost respect and who loved me selflessly. I was also blessed by two wonderful children who are now grown adults, living independently and contributing to society in meaningful ways. And I have three wonderful grandchildren, who are a delight. John Gottman, PhD in his research states, “Honoring one and another’s life journey and helping dreams and aspirations come true” is a significant part of creating a “sound marital house”. I found this to be true in my own marriage.
My husband and I went through a major transition when he lost his job from a major institution right after our second child was born. He started his own practice, and we decided that I would put my career on hold for a while and serve as his "unpaid staff person" until he became more established. That arrangement served both of our needs, because it gave me flexibility to meet our children's needs while I was still helping contribute to the overall financial picture. I eventually returned to my career again and had the support of my husband.
Reflections on a Meaningful Life
Many years later, when my husband faced death, we reflected back on our lives together, and a sense of clarity emerged about what really matters in the grand scheme of life. Surprisingly, it wasn't our careers that mattered the most, or the amount of money we did or didn't make, but it was our shared faith in God and being surrounded by the love of family and friends.
That is why I am committed to strengthening relationships. I believe that relationships are the most important aspects of a meaningful life, and I also believe that there are interpersonal relationship skills, knowledge and insight to be learned which can enhance these relationships. As I often tell people, we cannot change other people or the circumstances of life, but we can change ourselves. My hope is that in our time together, I can equip you with these relationship skills, as you embark on your own journey toward a meaningful life.