Sunday, November 20, 2011

Snapshots: Being Thankful

Glenn Hasard has a song, Falling Slowly. I woke up singing it today.

Every Saturday I walk over to visit my mother, and each time, pass a crack in the sidewalk, a rise about three inches high, and make a mental note:  Somebody should complain about that, an accident waiting to happen.  Then yesterday, it's me.

Walking with my son and his friend, we pass a rabbi and his family walking a little too slowly, at least for us.  We greet, pass, step up the pace.  I'm looking up at my kid (there's no other way to talk to him) and suddenly find myself flying forward, hands in Superman mode, terrified, falling fast. It's cold out and although they are bulky, my thick gloves brace the crash.  I survive the dive with a light blow to the forehead and a scrape on the nose.  At home, it's something to talk about, my clutzieness.  I wake up today with a slight headache, humming the song. Could'a been worse.

This kind of thing isn't worth mentioning, except that for me it's about empathy for abused women, really feeling some of that pain, a blow to the face.  My son jokes, "Just tell people that Aba (his father) smacked you because you got out of line."  But it's not funny, his joke, and he takes it back right away.

How about a few more not so funny snapshots, then a little Thanksgiving cheer.

(1) Dirty heroin:  A high school senior dies of an apparent overdose.  He's 18.  Four other boys witness him inject the drug at a park and watch helplessly as he falls unconscious.  They drag him into a car and drive around aimlessly for awhile, looking for someplace to be high.  That's what kids do when they get high.  They drive around.

The driver ends up taking the unconscious young man home with him to an apartment described as sheer squalor.  Many children will be taken into protective custody the next day when it becomes obvious that Griffen Kramer is yet unresponsive and isn't going to be responsive, not any time soon. Someone calls 911.

Griffen is believed to have been dead for several hours before the call, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

The story is only news because the loss is a loss to a retired NFL quarterback. Griffen Kramer is the son of someone famous. Most of us don't hear about deaths like these, but in some circles they aren't big news. Only sad news.

(2) Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story is a biography,  published eleven years ago. The book is now going for over five hundred dollars on Ebay. Some people are wishing they had read between the lines when it was first published.

An unforgettable Sandusky reference:
"I've loved trying to do the right things to hopefully make a difference in kids' lives and maybe make things better off for them. I'll never regret being called a 'great' pretender."
I think he regrets it already. 

In his biography Sandusky describes his childhood as so happy that he never wanted to leave the small mining town in Pennsylvania.  Remembered for his pranks (not favorably), he stayed fairly aloof, distant from others.  No one would have described him as a leader. He had a developmentally-disabled best friend.  Those of us in the research professions think of persons with developmental disabilities as vulnerable to exploitation. 

The profile mentions no girls, except his wife and his daughter, Kara, and that he and his wife adopted six children, five of them male, three of them  foster children, at least two from the Second Mile, the charity he founded to be help kids.

The profile-- aloof, inappropriate, building opportunities to take advantage of children--  misses having been exposed to pornography as a child, or having been victimized sexually as a child-- the primary variables associated with pedophilia.  We just don't know about that biography, do we.

It bothers us, too, that one child told the grand jury Sandusky called him 100 times, even after he pleaded with him, Leave me alone. Dependent, needy, cloying, desperate. An emotional mess.
"I'm an overgrown kid," he says in his defense.
Time to grow up, I suppose.

(3.) Modern day JesusThe man who opened fire on the White House last week tells us it's not just a coincidence that he looks like Jesus.  He is Jesus, a modern day Jesus.  Oscar Ortega from Idaho Falls begs Oprah to put him on her show.  He wants an audience.  Will we see more of this with deeper cuts to social services to the mentally ill? I'm afraid so.

(4)  The Thanksgiving Interview.

I read more snapshots before closing the browser. Herman Cain preaches from a pulpit a few times a week, and when he travels, takes his minister along. Is he working a program? (Referring to sexual improprieties, here, 12 Steps might be useful.) Can't help but ask.

An Egyptian blogger has chosen to go nude on Twitter, refers to feeling more free, thumbing her nose at repression. This doesn't feel free to me. Someone explain it to her, the bit about objectification, stealing with the mind.

After the story of the naked blogger it was time to seize the day, go feed my fish. The little guys thank me, as they should, for this is thanking season.

Thanks to all of you who read my blog, who comment or don't, but support the effort, don't beat on me for the stream of consciousness, knowing that a Freudian, truly, I am not. Not even a pretender.

Many of us, not just my tropical fish, will count blessings on Thursday.  That's what Thanksgiving is all about.

Thanksgiving posts here on Everyone Needs Therapy tend to be about how hard it is, getting together with family, how many of us dread the whole thing.  So much dysfunction for so many of us! The scenes feel worthy of the big screen, and they are.

But this year it makes more sense to me to emphasize social skill, spin a little social advice.  Most people don't know it, but the real social lubricant is intimacy. Sharing real things, the ups and downs we've had recently, sometimes makes dinner or cocktail conversation not only tolerable, but absolutely rich.  Sure, it can be too much, too much information, so we have to watch the responses. It's a skill, too much or too little, and handling it, smiling and moving on, is a skill, too. A simple "Wow!" will do.

There's nothing stopping us, really from asking, directing conversation toward more intimacy. Nothing to fear but fear itself. Like this probe,
"So how is everybody in your family? How's the health?"
allows someone who has gone through radiation or chemo the opportunity to talk about it.  And if they don't want to talk, they won't.

"Anything amazing happen this year?"
Amazing things do happen to people.  They get promotions, their kids get good grades.  It isn't all gloom and doom.  And if it is, and someone wants to share that, then wonderful! 

The people who have the least fun on Thanksgiving, or so I'm told, are the people throwing the party. They're busy getting the food on the table, cleaning up between courses, directing the traffic, finding the coats, thanking for the presents.  It's really hard hosting Thanksgiving when there's a big crowd.  I'm thinking that the structure of the dinner, the serving, the putting things away, needs to be less important than the people. The best part of the evening has to be sitting down and talking to guests, getting a really good interview.  When they leave, if you can't put your finger on something about everyone, at least one thing said, maybe it's not been such a successful evening.

It's a value, you know, saying these things, that there can be, there should be, intimacy in Thanksgiving; even suggesting we make it a social wellness experiment, a bonding thing.  Is it really therapeutic, sweeping grudges under the carpet, glossing over all the history, whatever it might be, dismissing the narcissistic injuries to another place, another time?

I think so.  It is the risk we have to take to connect, you know, kicking it up a little, the depth of conversation.  See what happens when you ask, "So how are you anyway, really?"

Emphasis on the really.  Most of us don't like pretending all that much, is the truth.  It's a lot of work.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.



Tuesday@11 said...

HAppy Thanksgiving to you! Sorry about your fall. I am wondering if you need medical evaluation since you awoke with a headache? What say FD?

therapydoc said...

Thanks, you too. He says I'm milking it with everything I've got :)

HubCats said...

thanks for the advice! Can't wait to try it. happy thanksgiving, everyone!

Charles Phillips said...

I sent an email to brother 3 months ago with a link to my blog. He wrote back "thanks I will write soon ". As yet no reply and it is bothering me somewhat .He is 10 years older and and I thought things would be different from when I was 10 and he was 20 and now I am 64 and he 74.My wife died 3 years ago and his died 2 years ago and I returned to uk for the funeral.I somehow thought we would have become closer by now after some space from the funerals .I wonder if he cares at all . Is that all there is ,we just share the same parents .

therapydoc said...

I always say, Keep trying with siblings, unless you have too much of your own anger. Keep knocking on the door.

Retriever said...

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, dear TD. Many blessings for you and all your family.

About that fall, I think that sometimes we have precisely the accident we worry about NOT having, or that we think somebody else might have. It's as if God sends us the warning, but we sort of half listen, then think we got the message, then go back to being busy and get hurt after all. The Bible tells the story again and again about people hearing a still small voice or a LOUD voice then ignoring it at their peril. Not saying that you ignored it, just that most of us are so busy that we forget that we were watching out for something that then BAM, trips us up...

Your message about intimacy is a good one, but I'm still my frozen WASP...we try to put a good face on for our family and coworkers, and only really confide in our doctor, in a crisis in a minister,and maybe a best friend...tho my best friend disagrees with me on politics, religion and a lot else, which kind of excludes most of the things I like to discuss except psychiatry...I sometimes think that I have better blog friends (who could be ax murderers, for all I know) than in real life, because I live somewhere I wouldn't have chosen, around people with very different values, etc. Not to be a grouch...

Syd said...

Good to read you, TD. I think that Thanksgiving will be good this year. I don't know how much intimacy there will be with the parents-in-law. But there will be good conversation at some time during the day. I hope that you have a good day.

therapydoc said...

Good luck Hubcats!

And Syd, fact is, success here is a real wild card, has everything to do with how guarded others are, not anybody’s interviewing skill.

Retriever, the warning signs, probably, are always there, right? And fact is, we’re smart to be guarded, had better be with certain people! The Internet friendships, thank G-d, are so fabulous, creative, open, unafraid. It’s got to be why we’re here. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.