Let the chips fall where they may, round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows

I anticipate this post to be an admission about my love for casino culture, and an update of sorts. I feel a bit chagrined by my lack of consistent posting. Here let me adjust this, in true counselor fashion a classic re-frame. I would like to set an intention to make sure and allow myself permission and time to update my blog more. 😉

This morning finds me two pages into my morning pages meditation routine. It’s not really this morning anymore it’s one pm in the afternoon. I am an early morning person by nature, however my wife’s work schedule as a 911 dispatcher leaves something to be desired for in terms of consistency with sleep hours. She got “held” last night which means that she worked from three pm yesterday to seven am this morning, with an hour driving time each way. She doesn’t want to be up all night again so she will sleep about 6 hours (so I get to wake her up in an hour).

So now I am sitting here doing my typical ADHD mind dance of “how will we spend the rest of our day”? There are so many options varying from responsible to frivolous. Frivolity is the choice I much prefer, indulgence to balance out all that cold hard have to stuff that usually takes up all the oxygen.

The casino at this moment is my number one choice. When I was 19 years old and living in Moses Lake Washington (as a result of a very young marriage to a man who joined the United States Coast Guard) I began to work at a place called El Papagayo’s Restaurant and Lounge. They had a small card room. To have a casino with slots etc you need to be on an Indian Reservation. They somehow bypassed this by only having a few card tables. They had blackjack (minimum bet a whopping $2.00 a hand), Spanish 21, and One table of Let it Ride Poker. The reason I began working here, like most often how I got all my jobs, is because we began to frequent the place. We enjoyed getting “out on the town”, this laughable as Moses Lake (oft referred to as “Moses Hole”) was quite small. We would use the playmaker and play trivia and eat chips and salsa, it became a routine. My usual social butterfly self hungry for human connection and a buffet style variety in that department, began to try and talk to everyone I could.

This resulted in my working there. First in the restaurant. When quickly this did not satisfy my appetite, I moved on to work in “the cage”. I still chuckle at peoples eyes growing large with wonder of what kind of job was this. The cashier’s cage that is. I could read a novel in there and relax between rare visitations from someone wanting to cash out or “fill” a table. I was fascinated by it all. The dealers in their tuxedo like shirts with small bow ties and sleek black pants with aprons. I once wore my uniform from there to a Halloween costume party and it was a big hit. My tush was much smaller back then ha. The way that each dealer had their own style of shuffling, and dealing out the cards. Some dizzying in their quickness, some slow and deliberate. The feel of the chips, being shuffled between your finger, and perfecting your own art of dazzling with how you performed for an audience. The shirts were teal and royal purple and the women’s had a bit of ruching on them. The dealer’s I would equate to the dancer’s of Dirty Dancing. A mysterious and elite culture that had their own little clique. I wanted in. After a six week school for being a dealer, hosted by the pit boss Jeremy and held right at the casino in off hours, my wish came to fruition.

I was one of the powerful and chosen. It was electric and exciting to hold your breath in anticipation of someone having a very large bet on one hand, and you held the keys to their fate. It was even more interesting to see the behind the scenes workings. All the cameras on you at any given time, and how they tracked your personal win/loss record. We worked for our own tips there, a rarity, and also had great liberty for talking to customers as compared to most casinos who are ever vigilant for cheating. I believe I cleared about $1200-$1500 a night sometimes, this was rare. Only occurring when generous tippers with lots of dough drank a lot and/or won big. The town held a reputation for “growing” Major League Baseball players, and a couple who had been signed would return with lots of money and were quite generous. Nothing quite spikes your adrenaline like someone betting 25.00 for you the dealer on each hand, because they like you. I was young, curious, attractive (finally, I had been an ugly duckling), vivacious, and the world was my oyster. My love for casinos was born here I imagine.

My career as a dealer was cut short when I became pregnant with my first born Tyler, this was circa January of 2000. I didn’t believe it was healthy to have my pregnancy subject to that much cigarette smoke. I’m still grateful for that decision, however I am saddened that career was cut short. So now if I want a taste of casino culture I must head to Mohegan or Foxwoods (I’ve only been to Foxwoods once, I usually prefer Mohegan). And never again will I be on the safer side of the table where my only anxiousness and excitement is hoping for a patron to win so I can be tipped. I realize I am also fascinated by casino culture in a sociological aspect. It’s endlessly interesting.

As a child I always wanted to have a purpose in any activity I did. If I rode my bike, it was never just to take in nature. That bored me. But if I gave myself or was given a task, game on! I suppose even if I’d rather it not be this way as an adult I’m still somewhat like this. If you go to the casino there is always a chance you could come home several thousand dollars richer, but then there is also the chance you could use your $100.00 (or whatever set amount you take) to buy an actual something (groceries perhaps) that is tangible and you can feel good about yourself for.

I believe I worry more than most (or it seems that way) about what kind of person I am. I spend great amounts of time in self- analysis and reflection attempting to hedge my bets on my choices and behaviors. When I recognize an unsavory thing in either of these departments, the temptation is to be hard on myself in an attempt to correct it. What I learn from myself, and having the distinct privilege of watching others struggle with this is that: hard on self equals not the desired outcome of controlling the behavior, but in fact increases the likelihood of more negative behaviors as a result of energy being depleted and hurting. The antidote in my mind: compassion and understanding with a healthy dose of curiosity. Not telling a story of what that means about you as a person, but remaining focused on just changing the action so you can get a different result. Easier said for sure, but a process worth it’s weight in gold for my life. A behavior serves a function. If you don’t like a particular one in your life, get curious about the origins of it, and what you think it might have served and when. Then update your software to the present and see if you still need it.

I think we can credit this “casino focused walk down memory lane” to my recently finishing Stephen King’s novel: The Dead Zone. There is a particularly intense build around a roulette wheel style gambling game at a county fair towards the beginning of the book. This gorgeous foreshadowing was very enjoyable. It gave me goosebumps and had me pulling over, even though I had arrived at my destination, and not able to stop listening. (I read/ listened on audiobook).

I’ve been reading and writing more in the last two years than I ever have in my life. This is a huge something, and most days I see all I don’t do, and don’t have time for. I’m trying to rewire my brain here folks. Trying to understand more about what spikes my dopamine and how to balance the seeking of that with best choices for the long run and big picture.

It’s a gorgeous sunny Sunday. The wind is a bit chilly, and I can hear the wind chimes outside my watery writing chamber. The dogs have finally settled down from their “morning” eating frenzy, into a peaceful albeit loud (Siggy) slumber. It is now 10 minutes until I can wake up my sleeping slice of heaven. Should I give her another hour? Will we make it to the gym or drown in our indulgences? Will we go on a casino adventure today and perhaps learn a new game, try a new place and some new food? Or will we do errands like shopping and laundry and just lounge around this castle of our creation? Does it matter which thing when you have a love this enjoyable? I’d bet on her every single time. The payouts of my life’s work, my self-work, and my grand curiosities are innumerable. Enjoy your Sunday everyone.

*please note: gambling addiction is very real and a serious matter. If you or someone you know are struggling with it please encourage them to seek counseling. I have enclosed a resource below for helpful information and hotlines.

Gambling addiction help

We are always doing our self-work….

The dam broke open this morning finally after an immense amount of pressure has been piling up for days, weeks really. I feel it is my responsibility to share this with anyone who will listen because this is the raw and true moment that comes with all the realizations (and a lot of nausea).

I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my 14 year old daughter (one of them, I mean both really, but one relationship is truly suffering). The truth is I miss her, but on the outside my frustration is sadly much more accessible. So recently we tried to find a therapist. You’ve heard the phrase “Doctors make terrible patients”…. well…

We had a family therapist for many years who was intuitive and had a certain presence and nothing has been the same since she relocated to Colorado. I’ve been looking for a guide for us, to point out those little blind spots we all have, and the message seems to continue to resound clearly from the Universe that I have what I need inside. But come on Universe I believe in therapy and I don’t want to do this all on our own. :/ I never wanted to do things all on my own, but that has been my legacy of childhood. In adulthood however I’ve found an abundance of support and others to travel with, the cost was sometimes fairly high though. Not all created healthy connections. Now in the space of the healthy one I am able to process through my emotions, rather than being caught up in them. Then the demons can pass on along after their haunting and rarely does the same one have a need to come back.

So after a session with my daughter and this new therapist the other night a lot of things happened. The therapist was stumped and I don’t blame her, not in this moment of clarity anyway. My daughter was determined to be hard and inaccessible. The damage occurred when the therapist seemed to suggest that if sessions would be this way we wouldn’t continue. I couldn’t understand, the point of being at therapy is that suffering is occurring and it often looks messy. Part of the magic is staying when it’s hard. Staying with warmth. I’m having an oh shit moment as I realize how hard of a time I have doing this with my own children. Clients yes. With my kids, the stakes are so high. Lots of work to do here.

Anyway she shot me helpless looks during session, didn’t really take control of the session or offer much, except the feeling she didn’t really want to try. My last straw was when after having told her we needed a set apt every single week for right now, and agreeing on Monday nights at 6:30, that she stated that “she had a scheduling conflict” for our next apt. Then a couple of minutes later commented “that after last weeks difficult session, she didn’t think we would be back”, indicating she had put someone else into that spot. I’ve given no indication that I wouldn’t show up to an appointment. And right then and there trust was broken. I was livid. As a therapist myself my understanding that hurting people are extra raw, and being consistent and transparent with them is part of the therapy itself. Being honest and feeling like even if it’s hard now, we will get to a better place. If I don’t know what to do with a client I’ll say that, and then something like but things rarely stay this difficult for an indefinite time period, so let’s keep working at it. It’s the heart, energy, and enthusiasm that is sometimes the medicine. These things something that have felt depleted from me after this more than I would like.

So anger built, and then more things happened to fuel it… and more. People showing themselves to not be trustworthy in my life. To be careless with my resources or inconsiderate of my time. Oh I was angry.

The crescendo is when I came home last night particularly over-tired and the kids hadn’t fed or cared for our dogs, and were zombies in the light of their electronics and I just snapped. I had a “toddler fit”… and vented to my safe space, my wife. My person who as it turns out had also had a hard day. I sent her many texts that began with I’m angry and followed with every last thing vexing my soul. After the storm had calmed I felt ashamed. I didn’t ask how her day was yet. Her eyes were tired and full of her own world too. And then the big fear “I took up too much space”. Except since she never treats me like this it’s only a little fear with her. She’s always gentle with me.

The take home. I still have deep deep triggers about abandonment and being confused by someone’s behavior. Situations that involve trust. Rejection sensitivity. I’ve done a lot of work… but this episode reminded me we are always doing our work.

This morning while having my bath time and writing my soul soothing morning pages it all came together. I recognized my triggers, truly wept in the pain place, and am now emerging with a new strength and energy determined to lead with compassion and understanding. To continue to try and cultivate this within myself and share how to find it with my family.

Beneath anger is always always a place that hurts deeply, if we could just tap into it the pressure can be let out, and the wounds can get air and salve for healing. Gentle loving space for them allows the healing to occur. Self-reflection and willingness to see my part in things and not hold onto anger is therapy. It’s one of the hardest things. I devote most of my life to the art of doing that, and I want to always be a guiding light for others in this. I’m doing very well at that, according to feedback. But with my own family in my own home I need to do some work… and this is ok, NOT SHAMEFUL, because we are always doing the work.

What’s left after the storm is gratitude for my life and my wife that creates space for all our big feelings, without judging or reacting, or demanding she have space right then. I’m the luckiest person in the world for this love and for my work….