Spring is Sprung!

Daffodils blooming
Daffodils blooming (Photo credit: B.D.’s world)

by Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW


The sunny of bloom of daffodils and (occasional) gorgeous blue skies are announcing the arrival of spring.  As always, I am behind.  My grass is in desperate need of a haircut, I have yet to complete adding up my expenses for taxes, and my car contains a veritable junk yard of objects waiting to be donated or tossed or delivered or otherwise dealt with.  If I aliens invade and we all have to take to our vehicles, it’s comforting to know I have shoes, books, snacks, and enough flotsam and jetsam to last my family several days.

But none of that matters, because its spring.  In the spring, I lower my productivity (uh, yeah, even more) so I can revel in the hyacinths that bloom in the yard and dream of the days when I’ll send the children out with bowls to pluck raspberries for breakfast.  (Conveniently I’ll forget the part when the children balk, insisting that picking their food is akin to child abuse.  I treasure my false, bucolic Little House on the Prairie version of reality, where children cheerfully contribute).

For those of you without greenspace, I recommend hanging out in parks and the gardens of friends.  Maybe you can copy a friend of mine (okay, my mom) who went from home owner with acreage to apartment dweller at a certain age:  she quenches her gardening itch by putting together container gardens for her friends.  They pay for the supplies and she gets to compose, shop, and arrange to her heart’s content.  Then when she visits, she sees the beauty that she created and it makes both her and her friends happy.

There’s been quite a bit of writing about Nature Deficit Disorder, which is not a real diagnostic category on the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), but is a great concept to keep in mind in this world of indoor entertainment.  These days during free time our children play video games and we watch Netflix. Our grandparents rocked on porches and planted victory gardens.  (Okay so they also had to deal with the Great Depression and World War II, so let’s not crank up that nostalgia too much).

Something is lost and something is gained by the widespread availability of technology for both information and entertainment.  It’s like listening to a single musical note.  It never changes.

But we do.  And we need to.  I like to think about living seasonally, about the need to lie fallow and recharge in the winter so that we can surge forth with new energy and enthusiasm in the spring.

Spring cleaning is a well respected tradition that I would love to follow (and when I say “love” I mean “loathe”).  However, lately I’ve been making art.  Well “art” might be overstating it.  Lately I’ve been playing with Neocolor sticks and water and glue and seed beads and markers and my children’s old baby teeth.  I’m making something ugly and wonderful and I love it because it’s fun to make and fun to look at.

Spring is a time of new life.  It’s when sensible mammals (like us) give birth.  Absent pregnancy, we can still give birth to an experience that brings us joy.  Plus creative play is waaaaay lower impact on the life-Richter scale.  Gardening or art making or anything fun don’t need four in the morning feedings or diaper changes or college savings accounts.

So happy spring!  And congratulations!  What are you giving birth to?

Women of Wisdom

By Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW

WOW 2010 Conference

I’m volunteering at the 18th Annual Women of Wisdom conference today.  I’m wo-manning the “trip tent” as my husband put it:  I’m here to provide mental health support in case one of the participants gets triggered and needs help.

Hopefully I’m not spitting in the wind by admitting it, but this has been the easiest volunteer gig ever. So far no one has needed support and I’ve been free to chat with a variety of presenters, volunteers, committee members, ogle and bid on all manner of gorgeous merchandise for auction and sale.   

(If Murphy’s laws are being followed, some suicidal, gun-toting, drug-addled person will show up needing an appointment as soon as I post this blog…)

This is my first Women of Wisdom, or WOW experience and I want to recommend it to all the ladies out there!  I’m usually a bit put off by gender-division events, both for philosophical as well as practical reasons. 

I avoid gender dividing because it’s hard enough to respectfully connect with people of different gender/race/culture/sexual orientation/etc.   I don’t want to feed the “You don’t understand me because you are different from me” defense prejudice that gives people permission to stop communicating with 85% of the planet.

That said there is a place and time to retreat into community with those who share your focus.  More women than men tend to be focused on inner transformation (not to mention wearing the flowing, flocked velvet garb ubiquitous in these events—what is up with that?  Do Robert Bly attendees all show up wearing shark tooth necklaces?). 

Snarkiness aside, I’m happy to be attending and promoting WOW as a retreat experience that serves to remind us that our lives can be about more than mere survival. 

The WOW schedule can be found at www.womenofwisdom.org