Monday, May 31, 2010

Up in the Air

Seriously, it's not that I don't have any original stuff. There's a deeper essay inside me, all about food being the thing we all obsess about most-- weight, to be more specific-- and how money takes the #2 spot.  Or was it the other way around?

But let's just settle for a movie. It's summertime.

Have you seen Up in the Air? If you haven't, think twice before reading this post, there will be spoilers and you're going to see it. Not that it's a must-see, but maybe it should be.  We hear what must be be real stories, told by actors who appear to be real people, stories about the torment of unemployment: the initial impact of losing a job; the mental anguish of facing foreclosure, the loss of status and purpose, bankruptcy and shame; suicide. Required reading? Walter Kirn wrote the book.  There's gossip about him not being invited to the Academy Awards.

Anyway.  If you're me and you travel a lot, the opening sequence is captivating-- aerial photographs like the ones I'm always snapping with my phone. Some of us really, really like flying, despite the hassle, the aggravation in line, the paranoia of security, the wait. The cancellations. I'm taking off for a couple of days this week, that's the plan, and my excitement is palpable. Some of the twitter in my belly has to do with being up in the air again.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) loves flying, too, the feeling of living out of a carry-on, paring down his possessions to what he can pack into a light-weight vessel on wheels. He is a motivational speaker, talks ad nauseum about the backpack, how if you filled one of these with all of your possessions, all that you have, all the things you own, packed in all of your friends, your family, your people-- you would find that you are mightily burdened.

All of this, he implies, the weight of living as a social animal, the choice to be grounded, is a burden.

Live like Ryan Bingham and set yourself free.

Has he got OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Sure, maybe. Or is he disordered with Schizoid or Avoidant Personality Disorder, fearful of people to the degree of self-imposed isolation? Nah. He speaks to people for a living, empowers them to be good with a solitary independence, tells us to look forward, unafraid. And he has relationships with women, he's George Clooney, for crying out loud, handsome and socially fluid.  He even falls in love. (The female supportive actors, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga made the movie for me, not George, particularly)

Ryan has an agenda with that backpack metaphor, even if he believes in it. What he is really doing, when he tells people that life as a social animal is a burden is a verbal equivalent of slight of hand, a con.

He works for an outsourcing company. You may be familiar with these. They take the pinch out of unemployment, present you with the package, the severance, and point the finger to other sources of employment. But Ryan has the ugly job of having to tell people,
"You're fired."
He doesn't say it like that, he says it nicely. He relabels the experience:
"All great people have been let go."
"Now you have the opportunity to do what you've always wanted to do."
"Now you can be great, meet your aspirations."
If you've ever treated anyone who has lost a job, the same words, maybe, have come from your mouth. They can be soothing, they can be true. They are a Bandaid, you both know this, but you're not applying the Bandaid unless the patient has opened with the concept first, alluded to relief and desire to pursue a dream, can see the possibilities inherent in the dream. You both know that being let go means there's a likelihood you may lose everything, certainly much of the life you're accustomed to living, the one you have grown to know, maybe even love.

You don't lose your family, however. You don't lose your soul. You don't lose your goodness, all that is you, or you shouldn't, when you lose your job. We hear this from the actors who have lost their jobs in the denouement, at the conclusion of the film.

They speak into the camera to tell us the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say. This air of documentary makes the film a little grim, is the truth, but it's appeal is that is is so real. Some of us don't mind a little reality in our escapism, find it therapeutic.

In therapy, real people tell real stories, and when the story is about job loss, we talk primarily about how job loss can change one's role in life, identity. But it is changing all the time, identity, anyway. Change can be thrilling, but it can be painful, too, and in this case, the change of role, the challenge is gut-wrenching, a true test of one's mettle. We shrinks subtly suggest:
Don't let the test destroy you. Stay alive, stay well for your family, if not yourself, but do it for you, too. They can't take that away from you, who you really are, your essential goodness

This is a crossroads. Things will change. You will survive. What was that Spock line?

Oh yes. And prosper.

And yet, to minimize what has been lost? Unfathomable, unconscionable, very bad technique. Platitudes are a condescension on the part of the therapist, or the employer, the hatchetman. Don't give people snake oil, don't hope they will fall for your politics. Now you can be great.

Now you will be broke. How is that great? How at all is that great?

When it comes down to money, everyone obsesses. Thus the job of therapy, when money is the crisis, is to increase denial, distraction, help a person draw upon old resources and find new ones, problem solve. We advise you to stay clear of self-pity, for this eats a person up from the inside out. Spirituality helps here, spiritual resolve to be a better person, not a bitter one, a force for good in the universe. Somehow.*

Attention to anything outside oneself, can be stabilizing. (But be careful here, pick your charities wisely). We don't say it, but we tiptoe around it, but we're hoping you'll get, that even if it is you who has lost the position,
It's still not all about you. Get out of bed. Do something. Anything. You'll be more tolerable to live with if you do.
Job loss is stress, in no uncertain terms, and managing it an art of good problem solving, varied coping strategies, and surely, supportive relationships.

So nurture these especially, the relationships. And while you're nurturing, grab some dinner with friends. Maybe share a salad.


*Spiritual stuff-  I originally put up some of the cognitive therapy that goes into this, but took it down, sorry. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Law and Order Final Episode

I'm fine, how are you? (for the benefit of those who tuned into the past deleted post)

Seriously, when the weather gets good in Chicago, it just doesn't get any better anywhere. Yeah, so the allergies kill you, but a person's muscles need the heat, and it's finally, finally, hot.

What's on TV?

This morning I'm up a little late and a little groggy and shuffle off to the family room. Like many couples who believe that television in the bedroom can be bad for a relationship, we make it work to have to watch TV, and I have to negotiate stairs to find one. FD has brewed the coffee. He's nowhere to be found.

The remote is mine.

Nothing like morning news teams.

Here's the good news. ABC is having a contest to name the new Shedd Aquarioum's beluga whale. Despite rumors that these creatures can and will eat their trainers (or is that another type of whale, help me here) the Shedd tells it like it is:
A beluga’s mouth is permanently upturned like a smile. It’s easy to connect with these sociable whales as they glide by in their Oceanarium pool: They might turn a curious gaze your way, crinkle their melons (foreheads) and whistle—or even spit a stream of water!
You can enter the contest at ABC if you have a good name for this happy little guy.

A good name is everything, really, which is why I'm still boggled at all the promiscuity, everywhere, seriously, sex, sex, sex. It's only Tuesday, but a quick sample of the kinds of things a person like me hears, rounding the weekend:

(1) men need Viagra, perceive that women need them that way,

(nobody wants to work at anything anymore)

(2) fourteen year old kids need birth control,

(3) and the usual beef: I'm just not interested in sex, doctor, which is the only one that makes any sense for people of a certain age.

Not to minimize, these are the concerns of the day, not depression, not anxiety. Mostly sex, which is fine, important, and very, very good for one's mental health. Or bad, depending upon the context. That who, what, when, where and why, thing.

On the 6 am WGN news, it's Sex in the City every day for a week, fashion shows and interviews with starlets. I have got to rent I, because now the girls are going, it looks like, to Italy.

Missed the interview, had to turn away, blog about Law and Order.

But first:

Last night was crunch time to book a fare to Atlanta. So nervous, had to enter credit card information five times (wish that were an exaggeration). All day, beat myself up for having waited too long. Chicago to Atlanta round trip should be, at worst, $189, and flights were running $217 each way because I neglected to book. FD promised me prices would come down, and as usual, he was right. My son texted me and the tickets are scored, so yours truly is no longer staring at the screen, dejected.

FD breezes through the front door and shouts, "Law and Order! Final episode!"

"I never recorded Law and Order," I tell him, pretty sure he doesn't know how to use the DVD-R.

"I did," he brags.

"You're my hero!"

So we shut the browser, don't look back, and settle into the final episode. Law and Order, in case you've been truly withdrawn or in solitary, is
the longest-running crime series and the second-longest-running drama series in the history of television, now in its 20th season on NBC.
And wouldn't you know (serious spoilers coming up, stop reading now) the final show is about a blogger! Unfortunately, he makes bombs. But he's discovered, lost his cover, because he blogs and has told everyone his problems, vented on the Internet. It's going to be epic, he tells us, his exit from the world.

He has also put up pictures of naked girls on his blog, his undoing. Somebody doesn't like this, that a picture of his unclad teenage daughter is floating around cyberspace, and has reported it to the police.

No pics of the bombs and guns on this blog, sorry, or the naked teenager. Cruise around, I'm sure you can find both someplace else, if you're that interested, and apparently many people are.

Anyway, we learn that the bomber is a disgruntled teacher, not a gruntled student. This NYC teacher suffered unfair disciplinary measures. To stay salaried while the case against him is under investigation, Moot, the bomber, must spend 8 hours a day in "the rubber room." Sort of like detention for teachers, but they do crossword puzzles while on the dole.

The injustice of this, confinement to the rubber room, ostensibly for minor indiscretions like ruffling a kid's hair, or advising a kid, If you don't study, you will be not rise above stupid, makes a professional angry. But most don't leave the rubber room after a hard day of puzzles to make bombs to blow up their school.

The mental health issue isn't explored, unfortunately, there's no time to really assess why anyone would do this. We assume, stress. But for all we know, I've bastardized the entire story altogether for having grabbed chips from the pantry, missing some of the plot.

I imagine that this is vengeance, and our bomber, Moot, has a severe case of one of the disorders in the DSM IV-TR, probably one that will be stricken from the DSM V, coming to us in only a few more years. You'll get a review soon. I'm in favor, is all I can say.

The issue of privacy is ascendant, that I get, in this last episode. Executive Assistant D. A. Michael Cutter has assembled a grand jury and is asking a crowded roomful of parents for permission to detain 2800 students, to interview them and scan their laptops for clues. Uh, uh, says the grand jury. In fact, we'd like you to ditch the entire inquiry altogether!

That's not gonna' happen, not with a madman out there. Finally, finally, Sam Waterson - District Attorney Jack McCoy, convinces a teacher to rat out the bomber. He is simply the best, Sam Waterson. Nobody will ever replace him in this type of role. Nobody. All of us want our sons to grow up to be just like Sam.

Meanwhile, we learn whether or not Lieutenant Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) either has a recurrence of her cancer, or is in remission. The docs are going to call her any minute to let us know.

And if you think I'm going to tell you, forget it. That would ruin everything. I'm not sure why this photo has a red border.

Modern Family? Everyone, everyone, everyone, tells me they know a couple like Mitch and Cam. This can't be. There is such a thing as hyperbole.

But they are the funniest, the most lovable couple on television, and Manny, Rico Rodriguez, just slays me (lower left).

We have to cover 30 Rock, a frown in your pocket, and we'll be finished.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Predicting Dating Violence

That's a mugshot, above.

He's thought to have accidentally killed the girl he loved, Yeardley Love. Bloggers jumped on the story last week. Now print journalism is catching up, picking up where we left off.

The girl on the cover of today's People could have been a model. But Yeardley Love chose sports. Her athletic boyfriend, lacrosse star George Huguely V, beat her head against a wall in a drunken rage, killed her on May 3, ten days ago. Both were students at the University of Virginia, neither will return.

Page 63, lower left,
Now many are asking, how could this have happened? Could school officials have done more to prevent dating violence?
Some of us are of one mind, and the answer is a resounding YES. (See Relationship-Wise, and previous posts. Or maybe you're tired of the story.)

We only care because they're so attractive, athletes like George Huguely and Yeardley Love. And the potential of kids like this, having it all-- looks, talent, money. To blow it, to lose everything-- it makes everyone wonder. If they can't make it, who can?

The schools are getting the blame for ignoring the warning signs, which won't make the Loves, Yeardley's family, feel a whole lot better.

University President John Casteen is shouting about it, suggesting we all have a share of the process:
"Don't hear a scream, don't watch abuse, don't hear stories of abuse from your friends and keep quiet."
Or you're an accomplice, if not in the strictest sense of the word.

How many people are guilty of this? Millions, for sure. Most of us don't get involved when it comes to intimate partner violence. Most of us don't know about it. Even the cops will say: It's rough sex. People like it.

What we have so far on George Huguely V, the young man accused of murder, is that
he was fine --a happy, friendly little boy-- until age eight.
That's when his parents divorced. His father, George Huguely IV, was born to money, lived a plush lifestyle, but was in arrears in 1997 to his estranged wife Marta to the sum of $11,478.

Born to money, you sort of think, that kind of sum, he could have found it anywhere. His son was probably ten when the power and control played out. Who knows what little George saw, what he heard, what he thought.

According to People, a peer of the elder Huguely said that George the younger grew up watching his father "thumb his nose at authority."

That role model thing; it really matters.

Whereas his father thumbed his nose at the judge for child support, the younger, as a collegian, thumbed his nose at police, displayed disorderly conduct while intoxicated in 2008. Most of us don't swear at police, use racial epithets. George Huguely V, star athlete, did.

He didn't learn from his community service or alcohol abuse program, either. In 2009 he took matters into his own hands, flaunted the laws about battery, beat up a sleeping teammate. The teammate had allegedly kissed his girlfriend.

Yes, Yeardley Love.

What's interesting from our perspective is that the psycho-dynamics of childhood, the interplay between parent relationships and how children perceive their parents, themselves, their identity, the past, isn't always the focus of therapy anymore. The first order of business is to think about what's going in in the here and now, make sure no one is suicidal. Treat it all, make the symptoms abate with either meds or a very intellectual, cognitive-behavioral therapy. We don't get mired in history.

Well, some of us still do. The lesson here is that it is best to do both, mire yourself in history, and stay in the here and now, too. Make sure no one wants to bash in anyone's head. It's not as hard as it sounds, flipping the channels in therapy. Give us forty-five minutes, we'll give you your soul.

And here you have it, smoldering backlash against CBT. History does make a difference. It molds our personalities, sculpts our responses to things like. . . abandonment.

Not that people shouldn't divorce for fear of that separation, the effect it will have on the children. And not that we can truly shield our children from our emotions, our anger. These things are often unavoidable, the expression of anger, they are inevitable in life, feelings. You can't make all relationships work. Most of us can't. And kids aren't stupid.

But please. When there are kids, and they are in the middle in divorce? Take care of their emotional needs. Address their issues. Never normalize your rage or your partner's, not to yourself, not to your kids. It has to go, the rage, or it's revisited. It can be.

We hear that male members of the University of Virginia Lacrosse team carried Ms. Love's casket down the aisle of the cathedral during the memorial service. George Huguely V wasn't there, as much as he surely loved her, the girl his passion stole from him. He's in jail, awaiting a June 10 court date for first degree murder.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

What Cards Never Say: Mothers Day 2010

There's a teary story to this perfect game.
Dallas Braden's mom passed away when he was a senior in high school. That's her mother, his grandmother, hugging him after he pitched his perfect game.

I thought, who wants to blog on Mothers Day?

Last year's should suffice. Or the ones from years before, maybe. Not everyone likes this holiday because not everyone has a mom, and many people have more than mixed feelings about theirs. I'm crazy about mine, lucky in this way.

Yesterday she said to me:
You know. I tried to access my email like you showed me and I couldn't. But I did find the family blogs and I read your daughter's and it was really funny.
My daughter's blog hasn't been touched in six months. But Mom didn't care. She read the old posts and had a blast doing that. This tells us that if you're blogging, you probably should keep at it. But be careful about your identity, okay? And as long as I'm handing out unsolicited advice, even if you're anonymous, it's not really necessary to be offensive. Okay, I'll stop.

This morning I woke up to a Facebook message, a Happy Mother's Day from one of my d-i-laws. And THREE cards in the mail. Slow mail is really fun, you know? But that's it. It's over. So I'll blog. Not everybody's having fun, is the truth.

Saturday I flipped through the week's Wall Street Journals to see why one of my patients almost had a heart attack. As a broker he manages OPM (other people's money). The investments of most of his clients flew through the window within 3 minutes as the market dropped 1000 points. Brokers across America had a bad heart day. Why did it happen? We don't know.

This is disheartening, confusion about investments.

Families are investments, too, so I kept reading and found a piece about these by a Mommy blogger, one that I had missed while blogging and cruising the Internet for four years. She's WholeMama and writes for WSJ! So I visited her blog, of course.

The tagline in the header:
Before I got married I had six theories about raising children. Now I have six children and no theories.
You have to love that.

Anyway, I'm going to quote WholeMama, not to be confused with DaMama, Motherhood is Not for Wimps.

Amy Henry, WholeMama, writes this for WSJ
Mother. . .

Giver of life. Homework helper. Life saver. Hem adjuster. Maker of peanut butter sandwiches. All true, all real, all important. Even so, I was surprised-- and even fearful-- when my 16-year-old. . .
She goes on to tell us, basically, that her kid told her she wanted to be a stay at home mom, a SAM.

Ms. Henry mentions that SAMS get no respect. Networking, maybe at the playground, so enviable to someone like me, Amy hears:
One mother admits she's considered pretending to be her daughter's nanny in hope this would earn her some respect.

Another remembers telling people that she has five children, only to hear a woman respond, "Oh, horror!"
I missed this feeling of horror. I never felt it was a horror. Not even once. For sure, not once. Fear, maybe, when one was missing in action after school, but never horror or regret.

Every day is Mother's Day, my friends, whether or not she was good or bad. She's in your head, your psyche. Try it. Get her out. You can't. EMDR can't do it. No amount of hypnosis.

So if you had one, and she was marvelous, consider yourself so, so lucky. And if you didn't have one, try to be one to others, a good one, for so many need these, good mom-figures in their lives, mentors, people who care.

And if you're working outside the home, don't look back, because yes, you are a role-model, someone your daughter is proud of, someone who has probably saved the family home from foreclosure more than once. And if you couldn't, it didn't make you a bad mom, or a bad anything. You know that.

And if you're a SAM, a stay at home mom, then reflect upon what author and theologian G. K. Chesterton wondered in 1929, when he predicted the disrespect (thank you Ms. Henry, for reminding us what the little people are thinking when they blather on jealously about the mindlessness of parenting). He asked how society ever got the idea
that bringing forth and rearing and ruling the living beings of the future is a servile task suited to a silly person.
Happy Mothers Day.

The grandmother of my children has a bunch of these.

Can't give 'em away. Direct from the basement, original boxes. Actually did sell one on Amazon.

Here are more Mommie blogs, thanks to Radical Parenting (check her out-- I just found her). If I forgot you, please poke me. It's been a tough year.


My Mommy's Place

Busy Mom
The Mommy Blog

Mother Thoughts
City Mama
Mama Bird
Mommy Blog
Parenting Blog
Mom Logic
Author Mom with Dogs
A Mother in Israel
Holly's Corner

Mother-Wise Cracks

Pinay Mommie
Project Subrosa

Thursday, May 06, 2010

For Love: George Huguely and Yeardley Love

Can you really blame kids for getting drunk? Isn't that what they do, as college students? Make that, high school students? Athletes?

Well, no. Not every college kid drinks until he loses control, and not every high school student does this. Not every athlete. We can leave the other drugs alone for a minute, concentrate on America's favorite drug, for this is what docs learn in graduate school. Alcohol is America's favorite drug. And it's likely alcohol did drive George Huguely over the edge.

Here. Read the New York Times for yourself, Juliet Macur's got the byline:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — On a night that was supposed to be a quiet one, with final exams just a day away, more than 1,500 students at the University of Virginia put down their books Wednesday and paid tribute to a fellow student killed this week.

An amphitheater was packed for an hour with students and administrators, some holding candles, all honoring the memory of Yeardley Love, the lacrosse player who was found dead in her apartment early Monday.

Another Virginia lacrosse player, George Huguely, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death. . .

Court documents released this week, though, gave details of how that fateful night unfolded. In an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant, Huguely, a 22-year-old senior from Chevy Chase, Md., told the police that he and Love, also 22, had recently ended a romantic relationship. He said he broke into her bedroom and attacked her, shaking her as her head repeatedly hit a wall. The police said Love’s head was badly bruised.
This post is a little late on the draw, I know. But it's ironic, because I wanted to post about narcissism today, and yet this one smacks of intimate partner violence, or domestic violence, DV. Maybe George Huguely has this disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder. We know that some murderers do. I just finished a novel by Alan Jacobson about a serial killer on this. Don't read it if you need to get to sleep at night. Crush. Set in Napa Valley. We get a really good tour of the vineyards.

Today's theme. Crushed grapes, crushed people. Alcohol. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Intimate partner violence.

We can blame alcohol abuse for the murder of Yeardley Love, and everyone will. But while some drink to oblivion, and don't murder anyone, there are those who do. So it's likely there are other disorders at work, what is called a duo diagnosis. It's likely there's another diagnosis tucked inside George Huguely. He's had priors, meaning he's been arrested before. The Washington Post:
In November 2008, Huguely pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, public swearing and public intoxication after a drunken scuffle with a female police officer during a visit to Lexington, Va. The officer said Huguely told her, "I'll kill you. I'll kill all of y'all. I'm not going to jail," in a diatribe laced with racial, sexual and other vulgar terms. She used a Taser to subdue him.
Oy vay, a Taser.

He received a 60-day suspended sentence, emphasis on the suspended. He had six months of supervised probation, a fine, 50 hours of community service and 20 hours of substance abuse education.

Mostly punishing a bad boy. But are kids bad? Can we say an athlete is misbehaving like that, when he's abusing alcohol, when he's cursing out police officers? That kind of behavior, cursing out an officer is sheer narcissism. Most of us cower when an officer of anything just asks us our names. Well, some of us.

But if you injure some people, offend their egos, what we call narcissistic injuries, then you're likely to catch hell for it. At best, you'll be snubbed. At worst? Maybe murdered. Ms. Yeardley broke up with him. She rejected him. End of a promising young life. My condolences to her family, my prayers for her, for them.

Did she need a police escort to do that, break up with George? Some of us would say yes, maybe. Certainly the police are useful with stalkers. Bring a cop to the door of a teenage stalker and that teenager is going to think twice about bothering his prey again. Catch the kids young, when their personalities are still changing, developing, and you never know.

But order therapy, seriously, not a substance abuse program alone.

And maybe we can prevent deaths like this one.


Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts