What's Up With That? ~ Katy Byrne

Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


Benches not fences

Posted on February 12, 2021 by Katy Byrne

It’s been a long, nail-biting challenge. What have we learned from the pandemic, the fires, and the elections? That we need each other. Even if we say we’re introverted or we’re okay at home all the time, we know, in our bones, we are revived by the hive. 

It’s paradoxical because we are alone more, many of us. Then there’s so much talk now of unification in a divided world full of shut doors and isolation. It appears, on the surface, like we don’t rely on each other as much. But, just think about the grocery stores, retail, the mail, our families or friends, the people helping with vaccines, etc.

We’ve lived through harrowing experiences this year, unexpected deaths, job loss, conflicts in the home, even despairing conflicts. This is a traumatic time, no matter how protected you feel. 

I saw how important it is to befriend community when the wind blew the fence down between my neighbor’s house and mine. I stepped outside for the dreaded dialogue. Who wants to deal with this stuff? I tried the communication skills I teach. I disclosed my personal fears and vulnerable feelings, “I feel anxious about this conversation.” Then I asked for what I needed, my intention, and the outcome I hoped for. “I hope we can resolve this so it works for us both.”

She took a strong stand; she had heard that asking insurance to cover it was the next step. I kept repeating my hope and intention. I recalled this line in Martin Seligman’s research on learned powerlessness: “Everyone has his own point of discouragement, his own wall. What you do when you hit this wall can spell the difference between helplessness and mastery, between failure and success.”

I screwed up my deepest inner truth that tells me what I really need, which is usually embarrassing to admit. I muttered that I didn’t want to spend much. I flashed back on the line from a Robert Frost poem “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

I thought of a section in a book I’m reading about how we need to take responsibility for our own reactions to things. So I mustered my bravest self, remembering Jen Sincero’s writing in You are a Baddass: “When you find yourself dealing with someone who irritates you (and you find yourself getting gossipy, fingerpointy, judgy, comlainey), rising up and confronting the situation can do a hell of a lot more than just making your life more pleasant in the long run; it can help you heal and grow and get out of victim mode. Because it forces you to deal with the gnarlier aspects of yourself, the parts that make you not so proud.” 

Luckily she wanted something similar, which is often the case when you get past the surface issues and share your values. We found a good handyman and each pitched in. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a nail-biting conversation, but we worked it out and we’re friendly around here. As Frost added: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out….” 

Wouldn’t it be inviting and fun if we all had benches in front of our houses – not more fences and walls? 


One thought on “Benches not fences

  1. I propose the City have more benches placed along E. Spain and Napa so us older walkers can rest! We could have a drive soliciting donations in the name of out loved ones who have passed! Then we could rest and chat with other people.

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