Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Let's just catch up with one another, run with good old stream of consciousness. Because everyone likes Freud.

(1) Stream of consciousness reminds me of water, we can start with this. Mine was pretty dirty when I returned from a ten-day work-vacation, lots of brown algae covered the glass. The water hue had changed, but it wasn't  something that just called to me.  Mostly people called me.  Inspired by dialysis on Desperate Housewives,  I finally got to siphoning a couple of very pathetic aquariums after weeks of neglect.  When you get behind on the maintenance, when you don't siphon your water, you have no idea the guilt.  Hard to look your friends in the eye.

I'm so glad they're alive, seriously.

Meanwhile, at the office. . . listening to someone spill some serious issues . .  it occurs to me that there's a dead fish in the tank. (What did you think, there wouldn't be a tank at the office?).  Something on the floor of the aquarium looks dead. And the tail count of swimmers seems to be down by one.

It's hard to focus on my patient's problems, but I do, I get through the session, a little worried, but focused, more alive than ever with guilt.

Caption balloon over my head:
They starved while I was away  
One of them became the other's dinner.
I poisoned them, left the water unattended for too long!
The 45 minute visit ends and I rush to the tank to see--  Is he really dead? No!  Clown II is very much alive, treading water behind a rock. The lifeless matter on the aquarium floor is a piece of orange coral.

Between patients I change a fifth of the water, really fast, scrape some algae off the sides, dry up the evidence. Feed the goof-balls a few vitamin-enhanced flakes.  Take a deep breath.

(2) But down to more important things.

If you're a Chicagoan, the best news in months is not Rahm Emanuel running for mayor, it is the Bears making the play-offs. They compete against old rivals, the Green Bay Packers, and the city is stoned, has caught a fairly nice buzz at the very thought of Sunday's game. There's no way to describe what it means to Chicagoans to have a winning team.  Our serotonin levels skyrocket; people come to therapy and it's all about the Bears and how much better this is, winning.
What about those Bears! Can you believe it!   
Just a giddy bunch of urban bleacher bums. Makes no sense, but who cares?  Anything to make a city happy.

You know they lost, right?

But the loss, too, is thrilling, and most people appreciate the game, even me, a person not particularly into sports unless I can play.  I'm just happy that millions of sports fans can vent and bet and get their bad karma out of their system while watching men or women in pajamas and hats play their guts out. It's a fine use of displacement, one of our fairly primitive but surprisingly accessible defenses, give it over, whatever it is, to someone else, and how anger should be expressed. Shout it out about a play


Except for the domestic violence that follows after the game when people have had too much beer.  Other than that, spectating  is a brilliant coping strategy.

Even better is when watching the game with friends and family is like being a part of a support group.  People who would never go to therapy do this.  The best example I've ever heard comes from someone who tells me that his family is so serious about their team that they won't even watch a game with someone who is not a fan. They just can't stand the thought of the enemy so close.

I can totally admire this. This makes sense. Get together, bond over guacamole and a game that will be yesterday's news tomorrow.  Purge all the hatred and anger, the sadness out of your system-- as a group!   It is enlightened, and don't think they don't know it.  That's why you can't get in.

Even in defeat a group like this is empowered.

The Bear loss, unfortunately, means that the feeling is gone, the serotonin awash, even though Chicagoans know how to take defeat, we're used to it by now, builds character.  And do we have the Bulls, let's talk, and the Blackhawks.

What really blows me away about the Bears game, to belabor the subject just a little more,  is life imitating art. The night before the game FD and I had watched On Any Given Sunday, an Oliver Stone soap about a third string quarter-back, a nobody who saves the season. The top two quarterbacks are field carrion, massacred by other teams, and the third-string do-nothing is all the home team has left. He takes the ball and we see that long, long pass in slow-motion, the pigskin gracefully propelling across the field into the arms of the receiver.  Over and over again. We see this axis shot about five thousand times, but it's worth it because these are happy moments and he's the hero of the day! We need heroes is the truth.

Then at the playoffs, the very next day, Coach Lovey Smith is forced to play his third-string quarterback, Caleb Hanie, for the Bears. His two other quarterbacks are hurt. Hanie throws two quick touchdown passes in succession, almost saves the day.

Anyone who can save the day, however this happens, whenever, deserves our blessing. And all I can think is . . . until now . . . I didn't know there was such a thing . . .  as a third string quarterback.

I could learn to love football, not sure. So many underdogs.

The joke is that I thought I ordered what I thought was On Any Given Sunday, a DVD, because FD told me that I had to know more about football before presenting wellness workshops to football players. He tells me this and all I hear is Buy movie.  Tax deductible. On Any Sunday, or something like that.

Turns out On Any Sunday is about motorcyclists.  But that's what I got.

Which is why we have On Demand, only $2.99. Although I do sort of want to see the Steve McQueen movie at some point, can already hear the movie in my head, VvvvvRrrrrrMmm, can't you? 

A few inspirational quotes before we go, from the sage fictional football coach. We all need one of these in our lives, a sage coach.
On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose. The point is - can you win or lose like a man?

When a man looks back on his life, he should be proud of all of it, not just the time he spends in pads and cleats.

The game has got to be about more than winning. (Are we sure about this?  What am I missing?)


Before this whole football thing, before taking off for my work-vacation, Chicagoland felt pretty bleak.  Most people don't take advantage of the snow, don't get out on cross-country skis, traipse through the alleys and parks while talking to psych nurses on their bluetooths, marveling at powder.  Everyone seems depressed, cold,  broke, worried about  black ice.  Nothing to look forward to, holidays over, it's not good.  And because people are scrambling to figure out their insurance in early January, and the incredible emotionality of December has died down, I try to take off.

Without telling anybody.  I've learned that the best way not to abandon people is just not to abandon them.  Nobody needs to know much about what we do between visits, and we have this thing, it's called cellular communication.

And if you invested in your family, if you have managed not to alienate any of your kids, not so much, then where ever you go, you have people.  You have to see your people whenever you can, where ever they are.

(4)   So let's get to these.

In Atlanta the major attraction, for it is cold here, too, is the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.  There are some seriously large dinosaurs at the Fernbank.  You can imagine what goes on when the doors close.  Some don't eat meat, I understand.  Should we trust them because of this?  Would you not think, Hey, perhaps that fellow, that herbivore behind the little fence, you can hardly even call it a fence, wouldn't mind feeding somebody to a carnivore, sort of make a trade?  Were they nice dinosaurs, the vegetarians?  And the ones that ate meat, were they mean? And if they were, was it because they ate meat?  Has anyone studied this?

Of course, if you watch StarWars, or if your father watched StarWars maybe two hundred and fifty-nine times and counting, then you probably just look at creatures in a museum and think: George Lucas must have liked these.

We made some cookies using a StarWars cookie mold and they were very tasty, not just good-looking.  There are no calories in the parts that you cut away.  Everyone knows this.


Stinking Georgia flu.  That's as close as I get to cussing.
You know what they say, "If you have your health, you have it all."

Georgia's great, except that along with New York and Florida, it is host to this winter's flu epidemic. Whereas everywhere else in the country people suffered from:
What's ILI?

Influenza Like Illness.  See, they don't want us to know that they gave us the wrong flu vaccine.  So they're telling us:
Hey, it's not flu! It's a lot like flu, but you're way off if you think that it is flu, way off.
What I took from Georgia, carried along with me to Los Angeles, was not flu, not really.


"You did it. You gave me the flu. I hate you. Or I will, when the truth comes out.  Thanks for the memories."

So instead of catching the La Brea Tar Pits in L.A., moving as little as possible seemed like the right thing to do. 

But let's consider this.  What's worse?  Being sick?  Or feeling guilty about maybe infecting others? No matter how much Purell you use, you can't swallow the stuff.

The illness is really insulting, embarrassing.  You take the hot bath your doctor recommends to beat your chill, only to find your pajamas fall off when you get out of the tub and put them on.  You have literally shivered off inches.

Still.  You don't care if you're going to die, but you don't want to take everyone down with you and there are better ways to lose weight.

People who worry should be screened for anxiety before they’re allowed to get the flu.

Yes, in case you want to know.  I am the first person to ever have had the flu, the one with the cough.

When it’s over you feel so tough you want to wear a button or a tee-shirt that says,
I had the flu and survived!
Like the winter of 1978 tee shirts.

(7)   There's more, there's more.  But somebody's got to get back to work.

I apologize for not responding to emails and requests for things. You can link, copy to your heart's content, and if you let me know, I'll link back to you.  But get it in writing that it's okay to stream.  And please continue to shoot me suggestions, even if you might not hear back within your lifetime.  You have no idea. . .

It's been hard to get down to writing.  At some point you wonder if you even remember how.  Then you read stuff like this (check out the Erin Brockovich post, his first one) and although it's a little intimidating, you're inspired.

Fifty-five more days and counting until spring.



tuesday@11 said...

Just reading your post makes it feel like spring is already here!

Kerro said...

Love the update, TD... but did you really spend that session with your client and his/her serious issues worried about your fish? Seriously? ;)

therapydoc said...

No, I didn't. But every once in awhile I'd look over there, at the aquarium, which is a good six feet from my chair, squint, try to find the missing fish. Not like I wasn't listening though :)

FlyingBubbie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
therapydoc said...

Oh, and I'm supposed to tell you that even with 102 fever, choking with mucous, in L.A., I took calls, did 45 minute phone sessions, and didn't skip a beat. FD told me to tell you. It did happen. Tells you how some of us are a shtickel overly-accountable.

Retriever said...

Hi,TD, good update. Inspiring me to write about our adventures with fish. Good metaphors to be found there! :)A solicitous pet owner is a better therapist than one with plastic plants who is never distracted by a flick of a tail. I'll never forget visiting a shrink whose newly planted hydrangeas were wilting in the heat. I snarled "You'd better DO something NOW or they'll die!". Because obviously a wilting plant is never just a wilting plant...he laughed "My policy is benign neglect...but all my patients have been commenting on that plant today."

Actually a dear, kind man when not in analytic mode....

porcini66 said...

Not ready for Spring on my side...need more snow, taller mountains and a smidge more woodsmoke in the air. Although winter is a hard season, and this year especially, full of loss, for me it is also a deeply spiritual season.

The deep, cold post-holiday depths (purple black sky, silent snows and the whistling stillness of the frozen meadows) offer a chance to sit with your solitude in a different way than in summer. It's almost a season of waiting...of anticipation...and so, for me, of hope.

And, Caleb Hanie was HUGE - even with the loss, that guy made the game worth watching! :)

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Thanks for the update. We actually got the flu shots in Georgia - and then returned to Canada to get the flu. Go figure.

Ella said...

I am glad that my therapist stays home, does not work when she is sick - good self care, eh?

I really liked this post.

I would be interested in seeing a post on Bill Zeller.

therapydoc said...

Ella, you got it. I've been thinking about it and will post on this after the Valentines Day post. First things first.