Hi! My name is Bill and I am the husband/partner of Judith, a PWP (Person With Parkinson’s), but more importantly, an AAWW (All-Around Wonderful Woman). I hail from Oak Park, Illinois, a village known far more for Frank Lloyd Wright architecture than for me! My biggest claim to fame during my high school and college years was on the tennis court where I earned many awards. School was always a struggle for me largely because I was carrying a lot of "you're-not-ok" baggage from my relationship with my critical father. So tennis was extra important in that it gave me something about myself to feel good about. Still, I remember clearly often thinking "Yeah, but what good is tennis, you won't make a living this way, and you're just Average ("mediocre" was the self-downing term I often used) in the other things in life that are really important!"

I had two significant experiences between the ages of 17 and 20. The first was that I wormed my way into a job at a dude ranch in northern Montana for one summer. I agreed to go for room, board and experience, and I got plenty of the latter … with very long workdays doing a million jobs I had never done before. They saw me as a pansy from the suburbs, and they were determined to make me crack and go home. (I was later told this.) But I learned and held my own, and made it through … tougher and wiser than when I went. I'd met a lot of "different" people out there, … some very nice, many fascinating, and some who were greedy, selfish, and untrustworthy. It was the land, the mountains, and the animals that got me through. They touched me in a deep, spiritual way that planted the seeds for life-long changes in my own beliefs and spirituality. That part was wonderful and I was left with a yearning to connect over and over whenever and wherever I could with those three values: animals, mountains, land.

The second major experience of my youth was that I applied for and was chosen to go to Santiago Y Lima, a rural town in Puerto Rico, to join a group of seven other young people and a leader to build what was the first church-in-the-round in that country. It was a Peace Corps type experience only this one was under the auspices of the United Church of Christ. After three days training in Pennsylvania we flew to P.R. for the summer, and what an experience it was. Again I was doing and learning things I had never been exposed to before. The work was hard, the quarters were as primitive as possible, the new relationships were good, and meeting and learning about the townspeople and country was fascinating and expanding. And again, the beauty of the land and setting was awesome and deeply felt by me. When I returned I was different. People were superficially interested in my experience, but most couldn't relate to the differentness, … and didn't really care to try to. And going back to my third year at DePauw University, reeking in white sheltered middle class values, was uncomfortable. I looked like I fit, but increasingly I didn't.

A part of my growing estrangement from that sheltered upbringing and money world was my fraternity experience. I won't say which fraternity, because that probably doesn't matter, but it was one of the more elite ones on that campus. It was one of those things where I was thrilled to get rushed for my tennis skills and to be pledged early before I even entered college, but from there on it was all downhill. I wasn't right for them, as hard as they tried to shape me, and that life certainly wasn't right for me. I hated it there. Many of the guys, and most of the values seemed so shallow and selfish to me. If I'd been more self-confident I would have changed colleges and gotten into a more independent living setting where education was important, but not SO important, and where status wasn't such a big deal.

I got through DePauw (in more ways than one), but just barely. My Soc/Psych degree didn't really make me ready for a job. I related well to others and enjoyed learning about and working with all sorts of people, so someone suggested the field of Counseling and Guidance to me. And off I went to Michigan State and a Masters Degree program. I just barely made it into the Counseling program but I quickly saw that I had found my niche. For the first time ever I started getting high grades. I performed very well particularly in the practical counseling settings, and I started feeling like I had some real worth and a meaningful future. I was a "natural" in counseling, you might say, and found I had many skills and sensitivities not learned in formal schooling.

After my Masters I was a teacher-then-counselor for three years at Proviso East High School, a pretty rough, large suburban school in Maywood, IL. This was yet another experience at working with/relating to people who were somewhat different (culturally, racially, economically, etc.) from those I'd grown up with. Generally, it went very well and I was quite successful. At some point a friend of mine via the tennis club I belonged to urged me to go on for a doctorate degree in the counseling field. It was an exciting thought, but felt completely impossible for someone with my academic insecurities. Yet my friend was an academic dean at Northwestern so he should know what he was suggesting. Were it not for going through a divorce soon after that and wanting to get away, I doubt if I'd have ever taken the plunge into doctoral work. But it was a sort of "what the hell" and "now or never" time of my life, so off I went to Northern Illinois University in the field of Counselor Education. I really didn't expect to succeed, but it would be interesting and I'd learn some things, and it would get me away. But to my surprise, I was a pretty strong student and I did well. This isn't to say I ever really liked school or felt confident in it, even when I did well. The "dumb-ox" label from my father was too deeply entrenched. But I was confident in my counseling, and I knew I had skills well beyond the average. I especially enjoyed most of the practical opportunities in my doctoral experience, … and grew a lot.

When I finished at Northern I worked at Illinois State University in Normal, IL for a little over a year. I was an assistant professor and was also the Director of Guidance at the University High School. Both halves of the job went very well, but due to some political and interpersonal conflicts within the university faculty I was not real comfortable with that half, plus I longed to work fulltime as a professor of counseling. As luck would have it, at the end of that year someone I’d interacted with at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, IN contacted me about a teaching job. I took that job, and didn't leave it for 32 years!!

While at Purdue I wore many hats… always professor, but sometimes counselor in the university counseling center; for 15 years I was Assistant to the Dean of Students; and for many years I was the Coordinator of the Counselor Education program. To me the most notable thing that happened over those years was that I got deeper and deeper into a therapeutic approach called Rational-Emotive Therapy, a theory based on the premise that mental health is largely based on how we talk to ourselves on the inside (our "self-talk"). Out of my work with this approach I then began to get into the use of therapeutic metaphors and ultimately created many of my own metaphorical stories to teach my students and help clients cope with loss, depression, anger, fears, and any other stresses. Many times I was encouraged by others to publish my metaphors. Initially I held back out of busyness or the old insecurity of not feeling sure enough of myself to believe I could write something worthy of publishing. More recently I have held back because I don't agree with the way publishers want to present my material. So when Judith proposed we develop this website, both of us were excited as we saw this as the location for me to "publish."

As I read back over this, there is a lot of the middle half of my life missing. Among other reasons I think that is partly because during a lot of that time I was sort of missing. During most of the first 20 years of my adulthood I dealt constantly with my poor self-image, got hooked into a lot of depressive thinking (as I imploded most of my anger) and also I coped (sometimes barely) with a lot of panic and anxiety issues. My drug of choice after getting dependent on tranquillizers at one point was alcohol. My drinking went from social to medicinal to necessary to mandatory. And amidst this very vicious cycle I experienced the rise and fall of a number of marriages and of a relationship with a son, all of which of course merely kept the cycle and my gut swirling.

For over 30 years I have been alcohol free with the exception of a couple of short periods when I tried to get back into enjoying wine. But each time before long I was enjoying too much of it and so once again had to kick the turkey cold. The years I have just alluded to are anything but a source of pride, and I genuinely regret the hurt I brought to others. On the other side, I am proud of the fact that I often have used myself to understand the nature of the self-talk that goes on inside us all and to decipher how we tear ourselves up with it as well as some ways we can learn to counter this powerful inner Darth-like force. The latter is the essence of what my metaphors are all about.

I come out of this "mess" (smile) in a really pretty content place – inside and out. I know Who I Was and pretty much why, I know Who I Could Have Been and reasons why I wasn’t, and I know Who I Am and I like living with me (…most of the time). For going on 14 years now I have been married to Judith. She is very special and I am fortunate beyond words. Our synchronicity simply brings a lump to my throat. Sometimes I think that had we met long ago I might have avoided much of my mess; but just as many times we acknowledge that had we met during the "years of mess" we, too, might quite likely have been a casualty. The latter makes me all the happier and more thankful we met when we did and have each other now!!

Eight-plus years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and went through a scary time ending with a choice to have brachytherapy (radiation seed implantation). The results so far have been excellent. Meanwhile, on Judith's side of the isle there is the Parkinson's problem compounded by other things she mentions in her part of this site.

It is very difficult seeing her struggle with PD and its symptoms. At this point she is handling her PD quite well and so far we’ve been most fortunate that its progression has been comparatively slow. As for anyone, the unknowns of the future look pretty scary at times, but this is now, and it is Good.

“Ya’ takes what ya gets.” It’s just the way life is and nobody is ever going to ask my opinion about it. "Just play the game, Bill… as best you can." Many different things, including good health, can happen to either or both of us at any time.

It’s a good time for us to turn down our “brights,” keep our eyes on the road in front of us and just take things one step or one mile at a time.

As we walk our path here at the Edge of the Forest I often stop and look around at the woods, the mountains, our beautiful Alaskan Malamutes, and the other animals that pass through … and smile deeply as I touch again the values and feelings and longings that touched me long ago in that Dude ranch experience in Montana.

I'll close with what is now a considerable variation on the original form of a favorite quote. It holds even more meaning and feeling now than it ever did in the 50+ years the quote has salved my soul and led my way:

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help,
My help cometh from the Spirits of my Mother and the Wolf,
From the Earth and Sky, From the Great Spirit, and
From the Godforce-within me." Aho.

Updated March 27, 2010


Bill Giddings