Revision Street: Aaron Karmin (II)

August 25, 2010

Aaron’s been telling me about meeting his wife on an online dating site. Now, they live together in a house in Albany Park.

I think my first email was like, Hey I like your profile. Do you wanna go run with squirrels, laugh with small children, and scare the old people? You know, just goofy banter. She picked up on it and played along. She was like, Yeah we’ll open a Kool-Aid stand and we’ll spike the drinks for the puppies.

I like being with someone who’s open-minded and has different tastes, someone who’s independent and can take care of themselves, someone who’s humor, even in the most frustrating moment, can still have some ridic—life is pretty ridiculous. Being a therapist, I don’t come home and talk about my day very often because it’s terrible. I mean, my day’s not terrible, but I listen to peoples’ sad stories. It’s fairly intense. You get exhausted giving out so much energy and not getting it back. It’s called compassion fatigue. My wife works as an administrator in a hospital working with cancer patients, so we have a similar understanding about self-care and need for balance.


(Photo by Heather Phillips)

I read a study in a journal of psychology that said if you have a good story, your relationship is more likely to endure. That speaks to me. It’s a good story. So ultimately, Yes, I met my wife, on Match.com. Now we’ve been together 20 months. I’m a dork, I’m sentimental, and I remember anniversaries. We just had our 20-month anniversary.

I got roots. I’m an adult. . . . I chose a path. I have commitments and obligations.

I’m from Buffalo, New York originally, so I see a great deal of similarities, great lakes people—sweeping generalizations—but Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, Green Bay. You get a lot of similar, what I always say is lack of pretension. What you see is what you get. You get guys in Buffalo who have a mullet and they beat their wives and they have no trouble being proud of those things. There’s something almost beautifully simplistic in that. At least you don’t have to deal all of the pretension, all of the smoke and mirrors that people put up.

As a therapist, one of the hardest things in the world is letting people live with their own pain. I often offer this: if you’re not selfish, if you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you take care of others? If you’re working harder than other people, if you’re working harder than your client, what does that say about you as a therapist? Sometimes it’s just a matter of just offering them some kind of assertiveness. The more you give solutions, the more you encourage dependence, the more you encourage dependence the more fatigued you become. It’s like, somebody’s like, Pssst Aaron, What’s the answer to number four? If I give them the answer, they get the test answer right but they don’t understand. All they learn is the next time they don’t know the answer, go to Aaron. That’s where compassion fatigue comes in. Clients become dependent on the therapist.

We don’t control many outcomes, but we control our efforts. As long as we’re able to recognize our own efforts rather than seek approval and validation from others, we’ll feel confident. I can be a great driver, but somebody hits my car. I check my mirrors, I put my turn signal on. My efforts are commendable, the outcome was tragedy. You could be a loving, caring person, somebody breaks your heart, doesn’t mean that you’re a screw up. People get fired in this economy, but doesn’t mean that they’re not hard working and responsible. It just means they don’t control the bank.

 

Categories