Jan 27, 2008


I had this post already written, so I will publish it, but the next few days/posts will take a different turn, as my father unexpectedly (he was 82 and had a heart condition, so as unexpected as this can be) died yesterday. I am on the way to visit my family.

My first and best model was my father.

All my life I was in search of a model, someone that I can shape my life on. Someone that I can learn from. I kept looking and when I found someone that almost matched my dreams, I would put them on a pedestal and keep them on my Olympus mountain. I honored and feared them.

This might have been an important part in my social anxiety. I was shy with mostly everyone, but with my models, I was frozen. I couldn't say anything in fear of saying the wrong thing and making them reject me.

I must have lost a few friendships in my need that my friends are the perfect models, and in not accepting them to be in any way wrong or faulty, or just think differently. I would put them very high in my expectations, and when reality set in and I would see they are just human being, I left unsatisfied.

In this respect, I thing blogging has been a great help, not necessary me blogging as much as reading other blogs. As opposed to the rest of my life where I had one model that had to live up to my expectations, I found lots of models. I can enjoy and learn from each of them, but the pressure on them being perfect is not there... plus what do you know about a person from their blog?

So, who am I learning from these days?

Paul Levy - Last year I called Paul my hero... he's still my hero. He just recently got the awards for The Best Medical Blog and The Best Ethics/Policy Blog for 2007. Well deserved! I agree with the rest of the voters. Paul is cool.

John Halamka, MD - the CIO at Paul Levy's hospital, BIDMC, and a bunch of other places (like that insignificant Harvard Medical School). John successfully embodies the saying: accept what you can't change and do the most out of what you can change. He makes things seem simple, but acknowledges the complexity of each situation. He couldn't have done all the things he did with a different attitude. I think I will be raving about him a lot in future posts.

Jolie Bookspan-The Fitness Fixer - I met Jolie in person, the only blogger I have actually met. We liked each other and I hope we'll get to meet again and do things together. She's strong enough to do anything she wants to do. I love her ambition and what she does with her life.

Seth Godin - I think he has the most popular blog... and it is worth! I just subscribed and hung out for a month or two... this is the best that blogging has to offer. One short post after another, one small idea after another, he made me understand where I can go from here. I will talk about him some more as well, but I highly recommend his blog!

All my social anxiety friends and their progress: SA Dave, Drew at Shy and quiet, Leila as the Perfect Hypochondriac and "the Guy from Successfully Shy". Guys, you're all doing great! It is so good to see how much we've accomplished against our common enemy! I'm reading you all and keeping in touch with your progress. Keep going!

Jan 26, 2008


I ran into an article that explains that expressing anger might be helpful for your health and that couples that express anger are happier.

My father had a heart attack when I was 9. We were told it is not healthy for him to get angry. I hope they don't tell families things like this anymore these days. It really put too much pressure on us. Ever since anyone's anger made me very uncomfortable. I don't know what to say, what to do, where to hide and how to make it stop.

Over the last year, I had a different take on that. It's anger expressed in blog posts. Some of my favorites are the angry guys - The Angry Pharmacist, The Angry Doctor (not writing much lately - I suspect he's not that angry anymore), and Panda Bear, MD in hid good angry days.

Their anger is obviously not making me that uncomfortable because I am not expected to do anything, instead, I can appreciate that they might be right most of the time. The article mentions that as well... In anger you forget who you need to be nice to and just cut to the chase and say things as you really see them.

When people are angry, you can really find out what they are thinking.

Memory and anxiety

I keep wondering whether there is a link between my lifelong dealing with anxiety and my excellent memory for details.

I think it's partially an exercise thing... I kept being very attentive to any communication of any sort with anyone and kept rehashing it in my mind forever, that I think my memory got worked a lot. Now that I am not that anxious any more I find myself remembering details that nobody should remember. I know details from blog posts that were written an year ago. When Paul Levy's blog was the only one I read, it maybe made sense, but now I am reading a lot and still feel like I remember too many details.

This might make someone that cares about their privacy very wary, but I think there is a chance to meet people like me on the blogosphere. I pretty much read these things once, maybe twice if they are very interesting or have interesting comments. And I also keep track of a million details in the project I'm managing.

I think I should just be happy about it!

Jan 14, 2008

The good, the wonderful and the rest

I noticed a few positive things this week. First, I was doing a user training. I did not have enough time to prepare and I didn't do a spectacular job. I did trainings with brand new computer users and I know what it takes to get them up to speed, but this time I just didn't have the time. One of the people at the course gave me an article from New York Times on how to teach computer skills. In the past this would have embarrassed me terribly. I would have been upset for days.

I'm not happy that I was criticized, and I wish I did a better job, but I recognize that the problem is not me not trying enough or not being able to do it, but the fact that you need time to prepare a training course. I am unhappy, but not paralyzed... this is new!

Along the same lines, the other day we had a few friends for brunch and we were talking about the American students not being culturally savvy enough to recognize a well-known Marx quote. I didn't recognize it either and that got me a bunch of sarcastic comments. I would have died from embarrassment. After the initial shock, I thought about why I don't know that... and I came up with an explanation that I think was instructive for everyone.

I grew up in the 70s-80s Romania. At that time Romania was a socialist country, but we weren't very close to Russia. Romania did not want to participate in invading Czechoslovakia in 1968. So I actually did not learn Russian, nor did I study Marx or Lenin. I pretty much kept up with what we learned in school: basically no foreign literature, dry and boring history and geography lessons, very little musical education and no other art education. I learned French and German in school and English in private lessons with my favorite teacher. I read all the books that I found in the house, but without much guidance from anyone. My parents were trying to keep sane at the those insane times by talking to each other and getting feedback from each other on the very crazy things that went on with their jobs.

I don't believe this is my fault. I am able now to round my education, and I'd like to, but, again, I recognize that there is a compromise between all that you want to do and what you can do... and I am choosing having a job, spending time with my child and family, reading other stuff and sleeping 7 hours a night or more. I hope I will be able to read and learn more with my child or when I retire. Until then, whatever culture I have is good enough.

And the third good thing, and the best, is my husband. When I started therapy we were both a bit nervous about it. It opened the possibilities that we will both discover things that we might not like; it is not uncommon for women to discover their power and "free" themselves of the evil men, etc.

Last year, whenever we had friends over or met other people, I would ask my husband to reassure me: Was I OK? Did I do well? How did I come out?

Now, when we go to bed, he cuddles and hugs me and says: I like you, I really like you. I like what kind of person you are, what kind of mother. I like that you are witty and smart and nice. I like the person you are... He used to reassure me to make me feel good about myself, but this is different. I think it's wonderful that I turned out into someone he likes and that I am now coming out of my shell enough for people to see that.

On the uncomfortable note, I am changing my gastro-enterologist and I feel very uncomfortable to face the old one. I called to ask for a test result and the nurse asked me to make an appointment. I got very anxious... There's more work to do. I am very uncomfortable confronting anyone. Bad news are difficult to give, I guess!

Jan 7, 2008

Oh, the Places You'll Go

Those of you that have been around last year might remember that I had a bad brush with a disease called preeclampsia and I lost a baby 5 years ago. It's anniversary time again and this year I'd like to do something special in preparation for this.

While I was pregnant, I was happy to get ready for the baby and one of the things I did was to buy children's books. Among others, Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

To give you an idea of how clueless we were, the day before I was 3 hours away from home installing an application in Production. I drove home that evening and in the car, I happily sang "On top of the world" with Karen Carpenter. I fast forwarded through the "This is Good Bye my love" song that was right after. On Friday, Valentine's day, I went for an Ob visit and told the doctor that my blood pressure was high due to a Pepsi I drank the day before. Next I know I am in the best hospital around with an IV, a catheter and discussing how very sick I was with a bunch of High-risk Obs.

To make it short, I was very sick, the baby was very early and very small, and I had to be induced so I won't die. The baby was stillborn. It was a very dramatic night, also in the mid of the Big Snowstorm of 2003, with nurses and doctors being stuck in the hospital for days.

After this nightmare, my husband got home the evening his baby died and finds a box. He opens it and inside was a book: "Oh, the Places You'll Go". Since then he can't stand the book. He has a difficult time having it in the house and just yesterday told me that it will at least be another 5 years before he will be able to read it.

I start crying each time I see it as well, and could not read it to the end without crying. It must have been so difficult for him... this year I had the power to read the book and it is an incredible book. I would hate to not have my son read it and learn it.

For this year's anniversary of our son's death I am going to quote a paragraph of this book each day and find meaning in it. Enjoy! Do read it if you haven't already! It is wonderful!

Jan 4, 2008


Giving tips: to whom, how much, when, how, etc. was a big issue for me. I had an idea what was customary back in Romania, but when I got to US I realized that's a completely different culture likely with different tipping rules. The envelopes in the hotel rooms and movies sort of give you an idea. I looked at my husband's habits figuring this will help me. I read Internet advice... things didn't match. I was confused and panicked whenever I was in a situation where tips were likely expected.

I think I got it now: there are no rules - each person does whatever they feel like: some tip more and everybody, others don't tip at all. You can get excellent service without tipping and people don't necessarily remember you even when tipping. So I am just listening to my heart and do what feels right at the moment.

I decided that during Christmas with the daycare center teachers. They are really nice to the kid, and while he has a teacher in a small group, she's there only 3 hours a day, and he is there 8 hours a day, so obviously there are lots of people taking care of him... so who would I give money and how much? Last minute, I decided: I'll get a bunch of nice chocolate gifts, enough for everyone. I got a small baby gift for one of the teachers that was pregnant. I put them all in a bag and wrote a nice note about thanking them for being his second family.

It went well... they are nice to the kid no matter what... and what they think or say behind my back... I don't care anymore. Nice words mean more to me than money and I think I made some people's life better when I said nice and heartfelt stuff.

Yesterday I got gas. It was really cold out here. And I thought about the poor guy that was in the frost all day filling up gas tanks, and I gave him two bucks. It felt the right thing to do.

Now I can relax about my tipping habits and find something else to worry about. So long!

Jan 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Everybody is looking back at the past year and making resolutions for the new one, so here are mine. As achievements for 2007, I did well and I prepared myself for doing more this year:

  • My first and best achievement is getting my son through his second year of life, healthy and happy. He turned from an eating, pooping, sleeping, crying and laughing blob into a little person that can get anywhere, communicate wishes and needs, be a social creature (just a bit shy, but very nice and friendly, making friends everywhere he goes) and a very loving and lovable part of the family. We can't imagine life without him.
  • Family life and work had their challenges, but went well. It is a learning process and we're getting better at it.
  • My health has not been spectacular. I dealt with a month long flare of ulcerative colitis, most of it during my vacation... that much for a relaxing vacation. But this has been bothering me for many years and I had no idea what was happening, so finding out what it is was a relief. It is easier to deal with something that has a name. I've also had a lot of colds during the last six months and I have no idea how to make this stop.
  • As for social anxiety, I went from being afraid to tell anyone, to shouting out loud to everyone, and finally to a more rational position of being able to share it in appropriate contexts, being casual about it, but not blowing it into everyone's face. I have worked a lot on accepting myself.
What about 2008:
  • Bracing up for the terrible twos... I'm sure my son will provide enough challenge and opportunity to learn... his emotional development especially is particularly interesting for me in understanding my own emotional issues.
  • I need to get my health under control
  • I'd like to build a support network of friends and family and work on balancing my life: add more fun and exercise to my current work and family only schedule.
  • I want to become a better listener and I want to work on explaining what I am thinking so that people will understand where I am coming from.