Sunday, January 31, 2010

Deadly Distractions

I throw my backpack into the backseat, announce to FD:
I'm doing something radical. I'm just leaving my phone in the backseat of the car.
He goes into a rant:
You, on a bad day, checking email while driving, texting, answering calls, making calls, talking on the phone. . . you're still a better driver than most people.

I think it's about skill, attention, coordination, . . .
blah, blah, blah.
And that is so about denial, I tell him.

It is radical, and delicious, I learn, driving without the extra stress, without having to attend to one more thing, the phone. Throwing off the yoke of the volunteered slavery, I find myself changing channels on the radio, figuring out how to do this without ever taking my eyes off the road.

And would you believe? As I'm thinking about this, about how scary it is, knowing that the guy in the car behind me, the woman in the car in front, is tempted to distract, that song comes on, Your Song. Rod Stewart is singing it, not Elton John, and Rod sings it even better, something else FD would disagree with me about.

How wonderful life is, while you're in the world.

They all have people, probably, most of them, that they value, that they don't want to lose, who don't want to lose them, not for the sake of a lousy text.

Makes you kind of wonder, doesn't it, what we're doing?


Saturday, January 23, 2010


I see a lot of really good people. You could say that most of the people in my practice-- no, make that all of them-- are just great people. Not that some don't have personality problems, or disorders that make them difficult to like, necessarily, or to be around, but if you get to know people, basically, they're pretty lovable.

So it baffles, me, low self-esteem, even though it shouldn't. A therapist like me will be working with a perfectly wonderful person, an individual that most people like, indeed rely upon, the go to guy, girl, and this person doesn't feel he or she measures up. The person I see as kind, good, caring, unprejudiced, compares himself with other people and thinks, I'm so not as good.

I, personally, want to blame society, more-so than the family, the values of the greater culture, the world out there, television, advertising, the movies, movie stars, professional athletes. How can we compete, seriously, with the wealthy, the talented, the beautiful? Most of us equivocate about buying a new purse, new socks.

When I say most, I mean most.

So society knocks us down several notches. And then there are parents. It's not cool to pick on parents anymore (so much else enters into the equation), but parenting matters when it comes to building self-esteem. Kids are vulnerable, look to parents as large people, giants, really, whose judgment means every thing. I told my son recently that I know that I still hope, want, approval from my parents, and feel that's a good thing. It isn't a primary motivation for my behavior, but it's in there, deep inside. And they weren't bad, to tell you the truth. They esteemed me plenty.

Not all of us are great at self-esteem building, even when we think we're doing a great job. It's a humbling job. In fact, we can be perfectly clueless when it comes to values. We really want our kids to learn these things, so we try hard to get our message across, and often it is received and the answer is no. (Like unanswered prayers). But sometimes we're trying to inculcate a value that doesn't need inculcating, like humility. Now there's a value that needs to be reconsidered.

Humility, I've humbly suggested on this blog before, can work against kids, not for them. It's a good thing to understand that in the grand scheme of things, we're very little, that it's not about us. Our contributions are few, and our lives are short. We spend most of our lives becoming, changing, maturing, changing some more, and when we're old enough to really understand the errors of our ways, it's too late. When we get old and sick we lose the power to do anything about it, can no longer start all over again.

So we should be humble, really, because face it, we're so limited.

But a person has to believe in himself. You have to believe in yourself, if you intend to ever accomplish anything. You can't say, Why bother trying? Because if you don't bother you'll never know who you are. You'll never recognize your own skills, your own value. What's the worst thing that can happen? You fail. Aw. Get over it, get over yourself when that happens, no big deal. Brush it off, try something else. Life is long, or it might be.

It can feel huge, failure. Slows us down, is what it does, smashes the ego, forget about deflating the ego, these aren't balloons. Unfortunately, not knowing that potential is immeasurable, failure slows most of us down, sometimes to a crawl, not a good crawl. So it has to be good to brush ourselves off, pick ourselves up, not look back. Learn from it and move on as fast as we can. Let's not dwell here in our failure. The company is depressing.

Ball players know this. A professional football player can play ball with a dislocated shoulder. Not that that's a good thing, but that these men do this is significant, illuminating, really. The human spirit dominates pain, can forget, can get over anything. (For $50,000 a game, I might consider this too, come to think of it.)

Probably the only good thing about humility, actually, and this is a very good thing, is that it tempers conceit. No one finds conceit attractive, indeed it's pretty repulsive, a big ego, which is probably the reason some fiercely believe in beating a kid into humility. Not to argue with religious teaching, discuss this with your clergy-person, please, but you don't want to miss the lesson that most of us will fall somewhere between narcissism and being a nobody. (Jewish joke, remind me to tell you one day).

Thus a little humility is a good thing, but beat the "I" out of a kid only if you want that kid to forever compare himself and come up short. Any beating will do, to facilitate low self-esteem. Just name your abuse of the day-- emotional, verbal, physical, financial, sexual-- they'll all do the job.

The most clever method, of course, often innocent, too, is denying praise. Deny it. Deny this thing called praise. It is in your power, as a parent, to do so. You don't want your kid to grow up with a "big head", right?*

Never say, Great job. For sure don't say, Brilliant! And those little pictures they make in nursery school? Be sure to say, oh, don't worry, one day you'll be better at this.

If your kid is upset about a 'B' be upset, too. Tell him he should have made an 'A'. What an idiot, seriously, for getting a 'B'. He could have done, should do better.

Parents who buy into this method of child rearing tell me that it gives the kid a bar, a standard to strive for, "You'll do better next time, you'll try harder, study more, workout more, practice more." Not all of them will, however, do better. Sometimes you want to go with what you got and see it as good, do your best with what you've got.

Thankfully, most kids are resilient. They know their strengths, and they resent, rightfully, a parent who withholds praise. It feels good, praise, doesn't it? Who doesn't love praise?

Let's not forget, too, that peers at school can be harsh, and siblings merciless. I'm preaching to the choir, you all know this, when I talk about parenting. Anyone interested in being a good parent should be able to do a pretty good job; there are parenting classes at community centers, zillions of websites and blogs to read. If you let your kids carp on one another, beat on one another verbally, physically, sexually, the siblings will do damage. Nothing like brothers and sisters to humble a person.

So what have we got here? And do football players have low self-esteem?

I don't know. But let's review:

(a) there's that comparison thing, looking around and seeing how small we are, how incredibly powerless, and how inferior to others in, well, so, so many things

(b) and there's the social war our egos have to battle, growing up with people who beat on us, remind us how inferior we are (even if we're not), how fat, how dumb. And remember, we're supposed to take failure on the chin, especially as adults, for failure makes us feel like losers. Failure in adulthood can hurt us even more if our parents and siblings have already fertilized the field,

and finally,

(c) the praise-deficiency model, which suggests that we need praise, and without it some of us will never be quite sure of ourselves, won't ever have a solid, I'm good enough feeling. Not that that's always good, feeling good enough. It suits some of us well to feel we could always be better, try harder.

But you don't want to be feeling bad, inferior, not all the time, not to the degree of pining and moping, depression. You just don't. And praise is the antidote for this. It's like water. A little every day, some form or another, and a person thrives.

Apparently there's a movie, can't remember the name, about enlightenment. (oh, someone just told me it's the Celestine Prophesy and the book is by James Redfield). It's sci-fi and the idea is that some people in society are enlightened, they get it, and others don't, and those who do try to keep it to themselves. Apparently enlightenment is understanding that the only thing that really matters is kindness, being a good person, meeting people in a way that communicates acceptance and understanding.

I might be wrong about the message of the movie, because I didn't see it, but that's what I got out of my friend's description. What it means to me is that enlightenment and self-esteem may actually be discrete variables (are very different, don't intersect, necessarily, at least not significantly). People who have all those enlightened qualities don't necessarily feel enlightened, not if their self-esteem is low. Which means that one has nothing to do with the other, maybe.

Okay, so you already knew that. But I thought it was interesting.


*I am being facetious, here, tongue in cheek. Do not withhold praise thinking it a good parenting strategy, and do not abuse children, either.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Just one of my favorite social-political action initiatives, Men Can Stop Rape.

I'm an urban girl, so when the word wheelbarrow pops up twice in a week, it has to be discussed.

I have fond memories of a sturdy wheelbarrow in my father's backyard, me tossing dandelions into it. He was the consummate suburban farmer in his day, my father, second only to his own, my grandfather. Huge zucchinis. Real sunflowers. The gene passed me by, however hard I tried to grow things, although I did manage to sprout a few avocado trees in college.

Still. You don't want me to water your plants while you're away.

But back to wheelbarrows. The other day they were filled with bodies in Haiti, today we fill them with women who have been raped. It's an obsession with me, right? The sexual assault thing is an obsession, gets me riled up, and the very idea of marital rape sends me into Let me at 'em mode. Militant, angry, feminist. Whatever you want to call the outrage that describes mine when I hear about rape.

Anyway, today I'm reading from a women's anthology, Transforming a Rape Culture (some of you wanted to know what I'm reading lately, this is excellent, but admittedly, Prep is on my list). This is the 2005 edition and it opens with a reprint, an essay by famed feminist Andrea Dworkin. She speaks to 500 male attendees at the regional conference of the National Organization for Changing Men, 1983, St. Paul, Minnesota.

How would you begin such an address? Five hundred men! Here's how Ms. Dworkin begins:
What I would like to do is scream; and in that scream I would have the screams of the raped, and the sobs of the battered; and even worse, in the center of that scream I would have the deafening sound of women’s silence, that silence into which we are born because we are women and in which most of us die.
Every 3 min, a woman is raped; every 18 seconds, a woman is beaten, she tells them.

Could this still be true, 27 years later?

What would you say if I said, Yes.

Actually I don't know. I was hoping one of you could tell me.

She beats on them, of course, the men who have come to learn to be better men. She tells them she doesn't care much for their guilt, for their sadness at the way things are, sorrow for seemingly unstoppable male aggression towards women. She cares not at all for their feelings or determination to change themselves as people, or partners, friends. She wants action, some kind of political action that will inspire a truce, a 24 hour truce. No rape, not anywhere in the world, for 24 hours. That kind of truce.

I'm quite sure we're still waiting for it.

Ms. Dworkin continues to say,
Do you remember pictures that you've seen of European cities during the plague, when there were wheelbarrows that would go along and people would just pick up corpses and throw them in? Well, that is what it is like knowing about rape. Piles and piles and piles of bodies that have whole lives and human names and human faces."
Most men received the address with love, she remarks. One threatened her physically, but her female body guard stopped him.

Anyway, it's time we promoted male responsibility here on the blog, and I'm embarrassed, really for taking so long. And it's time you knew that men, actually, do get involved. They do more than rape. Most probably don't rape, is the truth.

The National Organization for Changing Men has morphed into NOMAS, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.

They're still standing. And then there's Men Can Stop Rape, a truly fabulous worthy cause. I have one of their posters up in my office, the one you see above.

Also check out Men Against Sexual Violence.

You would think, seriously, that rape is no longer a spectator sport, with all this attention. But wouldn't you know? It still is. Boys still think it's cool to brag about their conquests, and they grow up into men who do the same, and sometimes one or two of them will hold a woman down while five to ten more rape her. This still happens.

Why? Because if a guy is invited to rape a woman and he says no, he is obviously a wimp. Or maybe he's gay. That's the thinking. Men afraid of other men. Peggy Sanday learned this while studying fraternities. Read Fraternity Gang Rape for more, but frankly, everybody quotes her. We'll get to athletic teams another day.

And although men are now claiming responsibility for changing the definition of masculinity, are fathering more proactively and compassionately, and empathizing much, much, more than ever before. . .
the proportion of births to single mothers continues to grow. In 1990, it was 26.6 percent of all births. By 1998, it was 32.8 percent. Among African Americans it has gone from 66.7 percent to 69.1 percent.* More and more boys are growing up without fathers in the home, and often without any positive male role models in their lives.

and although studies show that while most single mothers succeed in raising decent sons, a disproportionate number of violent boys come from fatherless homes with no consistent ly present male figure they can identify with and model themselves on. Sociologists use the term hypermasculinity to describe the extreme concern of these boys with proving their masculinity.
That thanks to Myriam Miedzian, How Rape is Encouraged in American Boys and What We Can Do to Stop It.

What can be done about this ugly phenomena? Some men are learning how to father with empathy, to lose the dysfunctional macho, I AM MAN, but others don't see a father figure at all, indeed resent their mothers, come to hate women, even see them as the objects of their suffering, something to punish.

Ms. Miedzian suggests that the only thing that can be done is to make child-rearing a mandatory class that children must take at school. She visited such classes attended by inner city children and walked away amazed at the enthusiasm. She writes books, too. Boys Will Be Boys, for one.

And then we have to do something about the rapist role models on television, in the movies, the slasher films, the video games. Now there's a thought. We're desensitized. Our children don't see violence as abhorrent. It's natural.

Twenty-four hours. Just 24 and we'll all be free, according to the late Andrea Dworkin. It's going to take years.


P.S. Andrea Dworkin only lived to 58. She wrote 10 books on radical feminist theory. Her website is a must-see.

Quote from the home page:
"Every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them."
Gloria Steinham
P.S.S. You can always go to a carnival on sexual abuse, too.

*Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2000 (Washington, D.C. Census Bureau). Perhaps the 2010 census will show different stats.

Thursday, January 14, 2010



FD says to me, “Maybe I’ll go to Haiti. They need doctors there. Some of the guys at the hospital are talking about it.”

I nod. I want to make a joke, “What would you eat?”*
But I don't.

The New York Times delivers meta-messages, news about news, The World News Media Enters Port-Au-Prince and on the radio, from Port-Au-Prince, Carry Kahn reports:
Buildings of cement and steel are still standing, masses on the move, huge buildings fall over on cars and other buildings, people sleeping on the streets, the sounds of shovels, screams, cries, Help me. Help me. Pillows, cushions, make-shift beds, and then an aftershock, another jolt, more chaos as if this weren't enough.
Oy vey.


I drop off FD at work, head over to Jewel for groceries, flick on the radio. That intro to Viva La Vida, I Used to Rule the World by ColdPlay wakes me up, makes me happy. This is refreshing, for all morning long I've listened while making lunches, straightening up, getting dressed, the numbers are impossible, they make 9-11 a minor-league player, nature is the real terrorist and there's nothing, no scanner that can stop her. Thousands upon thousands.

A home now a hovel, children stand on rooftops, the ones that remain, looking around, dazed, people push wheelbarrows full of other people, the smells of death, dust, destruction. This is the largest earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years, a 7.2 on the Richter.

The Richter is a logarithmic scale, FD tells me in the car, and my almost 21-year old physics-major son reiterates this as we bring in the groceries.

A text to my youngest son:

Am in the car. Can u help w/ groceries?

The night before:

One of my doctoral students works in Haiti, on hiatus in New York for her doctorate. She calls me as I walk in the front door, but I don't recognize the caller ID and she is babbling incoherently. Must slow her down. "Who is this again?"


"Did you hear?” she cries, breathlessly.
“Everyone I work with! The entire agency!"
(This is a social service agency.) "No one has heard from them. I won’t be able to concentrate in class if I make it to class at all.”

Class is online. We'll pray, I tell her. We understand.

They’re sorting through the rubble. I lecture for almost 2 hours about research questions and hypotheses, finding meaning in inquiry, being clear about change, how to measure it.


Reality check. Viva la vida means Long live life. For the first time, on my way to the store, I catch some of the words of the song!
I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies' eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
Now the old king is dead, long live the king

One minute I held the key
Next the walls are closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand
It's a pretty sad song, self-deprecating if not abnegating, spouts the wisdom of having lived beyond I live for me, why wouldn't I, the cocky confidence of youth and omnipotence, having the world by the tail. Ruling rocks, for sure, like rock stars do.

So what, cuz I'm a rockstar, go the lyrics to another song, I'm a rock star. Pink is one of these people, so what, who cares, in your face. My five-year old grandson introduced me to that video, identifying with the chutzah, the so what, the how should I know?. But you don't have to be a rock star is the truth, to have that omnipotence, a high that some people, certainly not all of us, feel as adolescents, or rock stars, the young, the strong. It's a feeling that is punctuated with acting out and careless, risk-taking behavior, cuz hell, you rule.

Depletion precipitates a low, the very normal depressive drop of serotonin, so much bopping around. Until it is gone. You think you rule the world, and then you don't, nothing to do with earthquakes.

Quick story, a composite of many, with a happy ending:

Guy in his forties by now.

Had strength, good looks, intelligence, even as a little boy, surely as an adolescent. More than a little wild in his youth, takes nothing from no one, no criticism, no orders. Doesn't care about school, drinks and parties, women come easy. He continues to rule into his twenties.

Bad health takes him down several notches, but he beats it, eventually. Even so, in the years of fighting biology loses his mojo, never quite lives pain free. Seeks out illicit drugs for the pain and these are easy to find. His doctors won't prescribe the narcotics he wants, they know his history.

Years of self-medicating with whatever people give other people on the streets, alone, homeless, wakes up one day in rehab, the family is trying to help. You want to save your kid, believe he is worth saving.

He takes a job, can't cut it, too much pain. Finds his way to me, depressed and for all intents and purposes, catatonic.

I tell the story because this is how it is for so many. Most of us can't rule the world forever. A biological, if not sociological, ecological reality, there will be a drop. What goes up, must come down. Then we work do the brush ourselves off, pick ourselves up, start all over again thing.

But there's a post script to the story! Although it's been years, I get cards on occasion, he keeps up with me, and wouldn't you know, is married, has a doting spouse and a kid he adores. He's doing well, despite the chronic pain, sits at a desk job, sells something, maybe magazines, and although his partner makes more than he does, she apparently couldn't care less, loves him for who he is, a person he's still finding.

Of course he goes to meetings, has found serenity, always a good thing, whatever it is called, peace, equilibrium, his way, is working a program like many people at TSR one of your better recovery websites.

And you have to wonder, you know, if he sings that song, viva la vida.


*This is a reference to kosher food. People from my tribe have to figure out how we'll eat when we go on vacation.

I liked this one better than the band's original video.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

January Back Acha'

Yeah, it's been a long time since I've had time to do this, link back to bloggers and readers who link to me or comment below. And I really don't have the time, but you know you make time for the things you like to do, meaning steal time from the things you should do. In other words, my 3:15 canceled, so rather than call people back, which would be the logical thing to do, well, let's do this anyway.

Thanks Tara for guilting me into it. I hadn't responded to this email until now, weeks later, but that's okay, right?
Dear Therapy Doc,

I have recently been given the job of developing and promoting our blog and
while researching this new task to me I have found your excellent blog site.
I am not sure how you go about developing such an excellent collection of
links for your Blogs Roll but certainly something to strive towards!

How can I go about inclusion of my blog?
I add you is all, and finally did. (sunglasses, people, think sunglasses). And to make your own list of amazing blogs, hang around, loiter and read other writers, like . . . .

DaMama Motherhood is Not for Wimps. Find me someone who disagrees. Try.

The Second Road, the best recovery blog.

And Penelope Trunk's Brazenist Career, almost spelled brazenist wrong, seriously brazen.

UK's Community Care Blog World, cuz they care.

The Doctor's Girlfriend (great pugs on the page)

My good buddy Jack at the Shack is kvetching about tuition. Hello.

Opining online simply gives an _____

If you’re dreaming again, in no hurry to wake up, try Wanda’s Wings

There are blogs that like sharing their music, and this one liked my post about a rock star. I wish I could remember her name, Ingrid somebody.

Over at Trench Warfare you'll read yarns about social work in the trenches. It's more than one war, you know. There are so many.

Eyes opened wider, always worth a read.

Totally into The Known Universe, read TechnoBabe.

Uppity-crip might make some people think about disabilities, and you know, we should.

Retriever’s clearly got her head on straight. And that dog. . .makes me nostalgic . Not nostalgic enough to ever get another dog, although I don’t like ever saying never to anything.

Kerro’s Korner’s great, even if there’s a “K” in corner.

Shattered into one piece-- can get pretty, well, shattered, just warning you. But it’s a good shattered.

Sandy Andrews has that picture of the shrink on the Sopranos for her header. Where’d you get that, Sandy?

Tears Behind the Smile
blogging about therapy and Ikea.

Calm Acceptance Patty’s got the idea.

Becky has a guard dog, Cricket. I’m new here, but love it.

Lisa Marie Always love a good dysfunctional daze, Lisa Marie.

Syd I’m just fine. The myths about 12-Steps, see his Jan 11, 2010 post is simply fantastic.

Blognut’s mindless ramblings can get poetic.

Mark, at The Naked Soul knows how to tell it like it is. People should listen. He answers the age old question, “Why do people see prostitutes?” It’s a hole in the soul, is what it is.

One Wild Ride links over to my buddy Thriver at the Thriver’s Toolbox. April the Optimist tells us that surviving s not easy, but there’s support out there.

Mean Something
is about literature (it should mean something).

Lou at Subdural Flow has what to kvetch about. Kids are a challenge, never easy.

Isle Dance has some unbelievable pics up, as always.

Cassandra recommends books for 2009 at Some are classics.

Zan at My Journey So Far tells us about leaving the Jehovah Witnesses. What a story.

Definitely stop by Café Jeannie and chew a little.

Maha always says, call bells make her nervous. She and a friend, way behind on their sleep, tell us 12 mortifying ways to die.

To learn a little Torah, check out the Rebetzin’s Husband. Where else would you go? /

and while you're at it, try New York’s Funniest Rabbi , not feeling particularly funny lately. So sorry for your loss.

Sissi at is getting it on paper.

Dr. Deb is a wonderful blogger. Looking forward to reading her book.

Jew Wishes / and I also go way back. I get my booklists from there.

My Social Work Network has great daily inspirational quotes/ We could always use one once in awhile.

Miriam L paints! Check her out.

MHMS at Made You Look-- Exactly how it sounds. / a must see.

Special mentions, Seaspray, Porcini, Rachel Z for helping me out with the community crisis, Tzipporah for comments, Margo, and the other Margo my daughter for her occasional snarky comments like, Did you actually post that comment?! A Mother in Israel, MizFitOnLine, Jumping Frogs, Curiosity Killer, and Leora, and to anyone I forgot, kindly kick me in the head, just guilt me with an email.

We're good with guilt.


Friday, January 08, 2010

Sticking Out

Just a quick story.

A few years ago I couldn't stand kvetching about winter, forfeited a hundred bucks and bought myself cross-country skis (ebay). Got the boots new.

The following year, despite his protests that he wouldn't like it, that he's a downhill ski kinda guy, I did the same for FD, got him skis. He didn't love it, but no one does, not at first. It's not easy picking up a new sport at our age.

The original idea was to ski to work, clearly a pipe dream. We're a few years away from that, stamina-wise, skill-wise. But when the snow started yesterday, the thought of cleaning off the car, the dread of losing my parking space, the memory of spinning rubber, all that negotiating with people who can't drive, and the pathetic hunt for a spot at work, all of it feels overwhelming.
"I'm taking my skis, catching a bus to work. At least I can ski home, or try to ski home. When it's too much for me, I can flag a bus anywhere."
This is Chicago.

FD comes up with a better idea. He'll park the car on Granville, half-way between my office and our house, meet me somewhere in the park by the Chicago River. This is a big park, but because Chicago is flat, you can still see everyone within 500 yards. We'll meet somewhere in the middle, ski back to the car.

And we do this, and it's fabulous. If you ever want to be alone in the city, this is the way to do it. Get out your skis in the evening and live a little. Nobody's out doing this, not at night.

Fast forward. This morning, new snow. This time I ski to the bus stop, one that's about a mile from my house. There won't be time after work to play around. I miss the bus by that much, keep going until one is approaching from the opposite direction, measure out time in my mind, get to the next bus stop, take off my skis, and wait.

The bus comes, I hop on. People surely give me the look that says,
you are one eccentric weird person carrying skis and poles on a bus.
The bus driver isn't appearing appreciative, either. He scowls.

As I settle into my seat, however, a young woman across the aisle strikes up a conversation.

YG: You ski in the city? That's so cool.
TD: Well, I walk on skis, but yeah.
YG: Like, uh, why? And how? I mean, uh. . .
TD: No, not everyone shovels, and if you look around, there's snow everywhere!
YG: So it's good exercise, right?
TD: Uh, huh, and I have this very sedentary job, and so it's good to shake out the emboli.


We talk until she gets off the bus, and I learn she's from out of town, has recently moved here from Michigan where everyone drives everywhere. Well, of course, Michigan.

I'm thinking, during this social encounter, I really don't want to be talking to her, I want to check messages and stuff, just breathe, but she's young and enthusiastic, and I'm flattered, you know, in a way.

She gets off before me and says, "It was so nice to meet you. Take care."

And I'm thinking, it was so nice, actually.

These kinds of things can't happen to you unless you carry skis.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Lust and Love: Part One

I don't know if we'll ever get to Part Two, but there's a lot on the cutting floor.

On New Years Day, National Public Radio played a Best Interview of 2009 with famous sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman, who is an inspiration, seriously. But Laura had nothing of substance to say about the L-words, as far as I can remember, so somebody should. I understand her new book has pictures, by the way.

Is it possible we’ve never discussed this, lust and love?

Let's get right to it then, start with lust.

There’s a lot to be said in favor of lust, without being facetious. Twenty-five percent of all marriages dissolve due to sexual problems. So it stands to reason that lust might be factoring in there somewhere.

Maybe it's there, but not reciprocated or appreciated. Or the object of lustfulness is someone outside the dyad, a lady, a gent. And if lust is there for someone else, and it isn't there X2 in an ostensibly committed relationship, then that dyad (two-some) could be in trouble. Heaven forbid. But it happens.

Which is why I'm thinking it needs to be bi-directional, it really does. Both partners need some luster at the same time in the same place at least some of the time. And it totally gets a bad rap, lust, and maybe it shouldn't, which had to be said, because without it, without the arousal associated with lust, sexual relations can be a real pain, as in painful. And who needs that?

And there's the idea that although sexual intimacy is only one of the five intimacies,* it facilitates the others, is a metaphor of every process, every problem in the relationship. Thus it is high on the hierarchy of couple needs. Associate lust, as we've just done, with sexual intimacy, and working the lust matters. It's a good thing, not bad.

Have I lost any subscribers yet? Oh, give me time.

Sexual intimacy, which should include lustfulness, looftness, whatever it was Woody Allen used to say when he was expressing his love/lust in one of his neurotic films, feels good, and it's free. So it has to be good for marriage, can surely be the marital glue, way up there on the list of intimacies.

That said, if a couple is not married, is not legally or emotionally committed, then good sex can be glue for that couple too, making it harder to get out when intellectually, emotionally, rationally, you know it's not a good match.

Still, it's hard to say, I have to go now, when a vibrant part of you wants to stay.

Lusting for a bad boy/bad girl, just one of those things so many people lust for, or lusting for an ex, can be easier than living with one of these 'til death (or divorce) do you part. People cut bait, are capable of rational decisions, even when the lust refuses to relocate. We get out of dysfunctional or second-rate relationships and think back, sometimes years later, with a fondness and desire. You bet.

There are clergy-people who tell us to extinguish the flame. But the brain has a mind of its own. We can fight the process, crack a mental whip, control the wandering, but it's difficult. Just like any other obsessive, ego-dystonic (annoying) thoughts, these refuse to leave home.

Sex therapists suggest distraction, focus upon the body, the senses, not thoughts, if they make us feel bad or conflicted. We're supposed to get into our five senses and how they affect our internal arousal, search inward, deep into the self, beneath the skin, although skin is good, too, touching it. We focus on the body, find a wave of arousal,** and zero in on what makes the body happy, the source of stimulation that makes it so appealing, this reaching for higher heights.

Call it meditating with a purpose.

Then, once it is located, once that certain predictable, happy-centered neurological pathway is found, we coach the main squeeze. Instruct a partner accordingly.

So simple.

Except for the instructing a partner, and taking instruction part, difficult for some couples. Which is a problem, illustrates the salience of problem-solving intimacy, a topic for another day. For a partner who doesn't want to give instruction (too embarrassed) denies the other an opportunity to pleasure her (let's just say it's a her).

And a partner who doesn't want to take instruction (let's say it's a him) reduces the chance that his partner will feel pleasure.

It is like saying,
I want to give you a present, one that will make you really happy, but I don't want you to tell me what you want, how you want it delivered, or when.

I'm assuming that what I've got to give is what you want, because you couldn't possibly not want what I've got to give. Right? Please tell me that's so.
Without hints from the other, we're lost. This is all especially sticky for people-pleasers who go ahead and say, It's so. When it isn't.

Ah, but if there's no issue taking instruction, then once this is accomplished, the instruction, the humbled down student is very sexy indeed and will listen, follow, and soon add individual polish. Together the couple finds that variations on a theme are infinite.

And exceedingly intimate. More intimate, surely, than wandering where the brain prefers to go, along those short-cuts, the exes, the models, the movie stars. Of course, not everyone worries about the short-cuts. Indeed millions celebrate vibrant brain circuitry, grateful that it is being put to good use. We're not judging.

But for those with too much guilt to fantasize about the mail-person, the gardener, the babysitter or the boy next door, for those who wish that extra people in the psychological bed would just go away, working the lust the natural way is a prime directive.

And in this process, lust becomes a function of love. For what we've just described above is nothing, if it is not love. You can't tell just anyone what makes you happy sexually. You just can't. Some of us have to love someone to do that. It's so embarrassing. You're only going to tell someone you love, someone who is in it with you for the long haul, someone you know will move mountains so as not to disappoint, at least furniture. Working every one of the intimacies feels like moving mountains, you realize, over time. Sex is just one of those mountains.

What's all this got to do with the Pina Colada song?
I was tired of my lady
We'd been together too long
Like a worn-out recording
Of a favorite song
So while she lay there sleeping
I read the paper in bed
And in the personal columns
There was this letter I read

If you like pina coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga
It's his lady who answers the ad, if you remember, and she likes pina coladas, obviously, and getting caught in the rain, just like him. But he doesn't know it, not until he meets her a second time. He's tired of his lady, he doesn't even know her, and he's stepping out on her.

You gotta' wonder what it is they talked about.


*Sex is only one out of the five intimacies. Tweak them and other problems disappear. Tweaking well, unfortunately, isn't always easy.

In no particular order, The Five Intimacies:

(1) emotional intimacy
(2) sexual intimacy,
(3) problems solving intimacy,
(4) work intimacy, and
(5) recreational intimacy

No particular order.
That said, I'd place sex high on the list-- emotional intimacy higher.

**This wave of arousal is what the yogis call kundalini (correct me if I'm wrong), and worth the search, the game of hide and seek. You can play it alone or with your partner. Makes it more fun. Call it a joint marital responsibility.
"Am I getting warmer?"

"Yes, and a little to the left."
Domeena Renshaw, world-renowned sex therapist, a psychiatrist, tells us that sexual arousal is one's own responsibility, whatever that means. This may not sound very romantic, but is the case for developing one's own appetite. She also says that sexual arousal is tucked somewhere between the belly and the brain. It isn't necessary to limit your research, is the truth.