Scary Couples Therapy

I had a therapy session with my partner yesterday.  We’ve been seeing this therapist since the beginning of the year, and we both enjoy attending the sessions and find value in our conversations.  She calls us on our bullshit and pushes us where we are uncomfortable.  And, boy, we’ve been uncomfortable.  We’ve been resistant, hesitant, lazy, and scared.  But we’ve also been successful, begun healing, busted barriers, and continue to grow together with her assistance.  It’s a practice: showing up, trying things to see what works, and then trying something else.

We were extremely resistant about starting couples therapy.  We were confused about why our “young” relationship needed such work.  Shouldn’t this be easy?  Shouldn’t this be something people who are married 20 years need, not a couple that has only been together for 5 years?  Are we failing?  Are we trying to scoop water out of our sinking boats with barehands?  The answer to all those questions, of course, is yes, and no.

One thing I realized yesterday is that we have gone through more shit together in 5 years than a lot of those couples who have been together for 20 years.  He was in school, I was in school (nursing school = hell), he moved away, his brother died by suicide, my grandparents passed away, I moved away, he started school again, we moved in together, and some other things that are too big and too private and maybe one day I’ll write about them, but that day is not today.  So, damn, yeah, it’s like we can’t catch a break.

But, we’re still together, and that is thanks to hard work and consistent practice.  Couples therapy is like that buzzword “shadow work” on a massive scale.  To be honest, I’ve never seen a therapist on my own, so I don’t really know how this would compare.  But, sitting on a couch, with the person who you love and trust most in this world and talking about your shame or your past or your hurts is really fucking vulnerable and scary.  You’ve got to pull out everything that is ugly and look at it and talk about it.  You’ve got to accept it or change it.  You’ve got to honor those dark underbelly thoughts and feelings, the things we keep hidden and buried.

I have no doubt my partner would accept me and all of my faults, whatever comes out, but admitting those faults to myself is really the scariest part.  I know I’m getting to something good in therapy when I start to go: “well, umm, yeah, kinda.”  I know I’m getting to something good when I can’t completely own it outright.  95% of the time, our therapist calls us on our shit and is accurate.  100% of the time I resist immediately when someone tells me how to feel.  But then I sit, and I allow, and I know she’s right.  We walk out of our sessions smiling, particularly the sessions that kick us in the ass.

And so yesterday, our therapist tasked us with watching a movie and examining our emotions while doing so.  Not just any movie, a sadass, hold-those-tears-in-because-I-don’t-want-anyone-to-see-me-cry, tear jerker.  Except that she wants us to cry.  There have only been a handful of times that Andy and I have cried in front of each other, and it’s always been stilted, awkward, pretend-I’m-not-really-crying crying.  And let’s be real, that’s pretty fucked up.  I love and trust this person more than anyone, why can’t our emotions flow with each other?  (I did a tarot spread yesterday on this, and that will be the next blog post ;))

That’s what I’m doing in the next week: watching a movie with my lover and trying to cry.  Give me some recommendations of excellent crying movies!  And, if you’ve seen a couples therapist and want to talk about, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments!  What was your experience like?  Scary as hell, too?  Or, the opposite?  Let me know in the comments ūüôā

exploringly yours,
Alaina x

Tarot Thursday Three: February 2, 2017

Here we are again! ¬†Thursday, the day before Friday, the almost-there to the weekend day, the #tarotthursdaythree day. ¬†Today is a little extra special because it’s also Imbolc,¬†and the day that my tarot shop is officially open! ¬†Check out the page above titled “Book a Reading” if you’re interested in my philosophy, fine print, offerings, and if you want a reading!

Ok, anyway, back to #tarotthursdaythree — the questions are by¬†me this week, which is exciting! ¬†They are pretty basic questions, but the answers are gonna be tough for me… So let’s get going, shall we?


1.  What is your favorite tarot card and why?

Alright, alright. ¬†First question and I already kinda hate myself — like,¬†how am I supposed to pick one favorite tarot card?! ¬†Should my favorite be a card that I pull often and that means a lot to me, or should it be one that I love the message of and wish that I pulled more?! ¬†Those two groups tend to be¬†exclusive in my reading experience.

But when I think about what my favorite card is, generally two quickly come to mind (one will be the answer to this question, and one for question three). ¬†The first is Strength. ¬†This card was the inspiration for my new logo and header: the woman and the lion. ¬†The lion is special to me because there are three lions on the “O’Brien” family crest, and in high school a math teacher used to rhyme my last name with lion — “O’Brien the Lion.” ¬†I’m particularly drawn to the lioness, though, hey, any lion is good by me.

I thought about selecting the Moon or the Star, my significator (Queen of Swords), or the Four of Swords which always means a lot to me, but Strength is a card that I can consistently and easily identify with and align myself with the message. ¬†It should be noted that I rarely actually draw Strength, not sure what that could mean. ¬†She combines the messages of the High Priestess and Empress (which I don’t often identify with well on their own), and rolls them all together and adds a sash proclaiming “Badass.” ¬†Strength reminds me of courage, inner power, and mastering your emotions. ¬†Strength has got her shit together and she’s going places. ¬†I want to be that badass. ¬†In a way, she reminds me of the Queen of Swords, because of her sense of self and discipline.

2.  What is your least favorite tarot card and why?

So, like other posts that I have read, I do agree that all cards are necessary in the spectrum of tarot. ¬†I’ve written briefly about the cards that I struggle to interpret, and that automatically kind of puts them in the “not-as-favorite” category. ¬†But, I wanted to pick a different card for this prompt. ¬†I don’t like the Five of Pentacles because this card is straight up sad, and though it’s¬†message can provide hope, it ultimately provides little. ¬†When this card shows up, it’s like saying, “Well, you’re in it. ¬†Shit sucks, but stay hopeful because it’ll get better….some…time….” ¬†And the fact that, in the RWS, these poor people are standing helpless outside a brightly lit church puts a bad taste in my mouth — why is no one helping them? ¬†This card is my least favorite because it just makes me feel without hope.

3.  If you could be a tarot card (live in/personify/experience), which would it be and why?

Nine of Pentacles! ¬†After the Queen of Swords (my significator), I identify strongly with this card (in conjunction with Strength). ¬†This card is like what happens to a person after they internalize the message of Strength. ¬†The Queen of Swords is strong, and fierce, and powerful to be sure, but she is lacking some warmth that I would like to embody. ¬†The Nine of Pentacles is, again, about being a badass. ¬†The Fountain Tarot writes that this card says “life is beautiful,” and I really love that. ¬†I love this independent, successful woman, and I want to be her. ¬†She’s worked hard to get where she is, and she has co-created a life that she loves.


Through writing this post, I’ve noticed that the Five of Pentacles is like the antithesis of the Nine of Pentacles and Strength. ¬†The Fountain Tarot (I keep referencing it because it’s my favorite LWB to work with) uses the keywords (among others) “self-discipline” for Strength, “self-mastery” for the Nine of Pentacles, and then “self-pity” for the Five of Pentacles. ¬†The Five of Pentacles is like a warning, to not let life and my ambitions to get too far away from me, because a substantial loss could be experienced. ¬†A lot of our life comes from our perception, or internal experience.

However, there are substantial external circumstances which shape and determine our lives. ¬†I realize that I’m privileged enough to be able to sit here and analyze these cards. ¬†I realize that I’m privileged enough that my life can be considered a product of my own determination, in which I don’t have multiple, toxic systems working against me. ¬†I’m privileged enough that I can see myself in the Nine of Pentacles, the woman who created her own life. ¬†I’m privileged enough that I do not anticipate the Five of Pentacles as my fate. ¬†But, that’s the very lesson of the Five of Pentacles. ¬†Do not become so prideful, so unassuming, that this fate couldn’t be yours. ¬†Circumstances change so quickly. ¬†Be ever mindful.

This also reminds me of the movie¬†Life is Beautiful — have you seen it? ¬†It’s about an Italian Jewish family that is put into a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. ¬†The movie is gorgeous, and it’s all about hope and how beautiful life can be even in the most horrendous circumstances. ¬†I always think of the movie when I work with the Nine of Pentacles, because the quotation “life is beautiful” is in the Fountain’s guidebook. ¬†The stark delineation between the Five and the Nine becomes more clear when they are next to each other. ¬†The Strength needed to get from the Five to the Nine is apparent.

And, if you’re privileged enough to sit here and analyze this, to analyze meanings assigned to cards, then you are privileged enough to get out there and help others move from the Five to the Nine. ¬†Why is no one helping the couple in the Five of Pentacles? ¬†Because no one has gotten up to do it. ¬†Be that person, use your privilege to lift others up, be that Strength for others.

Well that escalated quickly.  Thanks, Julia, as always for putting these prompts together.

At the time of publishing, here are the other posts that I’ve seen around…




What is your favorite/least favorite tarot card?  What card would you love to be?  Did you make a post answering these questions?  Comment below and let me know!

Exploringly yours,
Alaina x

No, I am not a mother.

There have been a three times in my (three year) career as an operating room nurse that I have received comments relating to my capacity to be a mother.

The first time was about a year and a half ago, I was working in an orthopedic surgery room with a bunch of boys men, and I was holding my own and giving them all shit. ¬†(As you do. ¬†This is probably one of my favorite things about working in the OR, almost always a little fun). ¬†The attending surgeon wasn’t present at this time, and I was directing care for this patient, giving instruction to the resident surgeon. ¬†Totally unprovoked, the (male) nurse anesthetist asked if I had kids. ¬†When I responded with a no, he said, “You’ll make a great mom one day.”

The second time, I was wiping a patient’s running nose as she was waking up from anesthesia. ¬†The (female) nurse anesthetist commented, “You must be a mom.”

The third time, just recently, I was fashioning a makeshift brief (diaper) for an incontinent patient. ¬†The (female) nurse anesthetist commented, “You must be a mom.” ¬†(Now I’m beginning to wonder if this is a weird phenomenon among nurse anesthetists….)

My response to the “you must be a mom” comments is some variation of, “nope, I’m just a nurse.” ¬†These comments come when I’m doing something slightly above and beyond my standard job description, when I’m doing something a little extra, but vital, to that particular patients’ care.

While I don’t personally take offense to such comments, it certainly provides an interesting commentary around being a 29 year old woman. ¬†When I receive these comments, it is because I’ve provided more personal care for the patient, I’ve channeled a more nurturing energy to someone in need. ¬†Such comments illustrate the assumption that a woman¬†must be a mother in order to be a whole, competent woman.

Being a woman, being female, looks and feels differently for everyone who identifies that way. ¬†Each of us expresses this differently.¬† In my mind, I am fierce, deep, and beautiful.¬† A self-sufficient explorer.¬† I try to connect more with my intuition and creativity.¬† Each day, I want to unfurl a little more, become a little more me.¬† And hell, each day that may be different.¬† I am strong — I show and express my emotions, I vocalize and verbalize and sometimes do so too loudly.¬† My voice — loud and strong — is one of my favorite features, and one that gets the most flak.¬† My nickname (by at least one person at work) is Pitbull (not the singer) and I’ve been told I can be “perceived as aggressive.” ¬†But each day, I work; I work hard and try each day to be a better nurse, a better human.¬† I’m trying to be comfortable in my skin, enjoy a nice dress, moderately comfortable heels, and make up.¬† I want to connect with myself and with others.¬† I want to love and fight and roar.

I identify as a woman. ¬†I identify as a nurse. ¬†I do not identify as a mother. ¬†Maybe one day I’ll be a mother. ¬†But no, I mustn’t¬†be a mother to be a damn good nurse. ¬†One of the best nurses I know never intends to have children. ¬†And I¬†know that I’m providing better care than some nurses who are mothers. ¬†Being a mother makes no determination on nursing care. ¬†(In addition, what do such comments say about nurses who are male? ¬†I know plenty of amazing ones, and they are not “mothers.” ¬†Another story.)

Women are powerful and dynamic beyond their capacity to birth children, to mother.  Now, more than ever, women need to harness that power; women need to be strong and together.  There should be no division or judgement placed upon a woman because of her choices in life.  There need only be support, acceptance, fighting back, and healing.  So much healing.

Do you identify as a woman?  What are you thoughts on womanhood?  Have you ever felt judged by another person based on your sex, gender, womanhood, or mothering capabilities/abilities?  Let me know in the comments below.

exploringly yours,
Alaina x

Some portions of this post have been previously posted on my Instagram feed.