Getting Mocked by Alfred Adler

canstockphoto3436262Over five years of blogging, and at least 50% of it has been whinging on about writing – doing it, not doing it, determined to do it, failing to do it. I’ve pitched to agents at a conference and not followed through.  I’ve been given the time, opportunity, and space to do it. I’ve set and promptly passed deadlines. I’ve made note cards, scribbled on white boards, discussed it ad nauseam with friends. I have skeletal novels and unfinished stories and poetry done badly. I have made myself feel physically ill, have anxiety attacks, and on occasion had a good blubber about it. Writing doesn’t make me miserable. Failing to do it does.

So why would anyone NOT do what they love to do? What kind of messed-up psychological bullshit is that?

When faced with an intractable problem, I have a process. It involves contemplation and research. I am now surrounded by books on perfectionism, human nature, time management, and failure. I’ve been reading through them, one by one, taking notes, thinking about what applies to my situation and what doesn’t. Every once in a while, I run across something that startles me.

Faint-heartedness is a characteristic of those who feel that every task which faces them is especially difficult; of people who have no confidence in their powers to accomplish anything.

Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 1927

I first heard about Adlerian philosophy in parenting classes many years ago, but had never read through his explanations. The distance between my exposure to knowledge and my implementation of it is quite great. Like Grand Canyon great.

As a rule this trait is evinced in the form of slowed movements. Thus the distance canstockphoto41149785between the individual and his approaching test or task, not only does not quickly become smaller, but may even remain unchanged.

Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 1927

If my life timeline is any indicator, I move at a glacial pace. I learn everything the hard way. I don’t listen to others, choosing instead to learn by falling on my own face, tripping over my own feet, and living in my own convoluted knot of a brain. If I read something that resonates, it doesn’t sink in for another 2-5 years. If I fail at something, I have to fail 25 more times before a lesson emerges.

People who are always to be found elsewhere when they should be applying themselves to some particular problem of life, belong to this group. Such individuals suddenly discover that they are not at all fit for the profession which they have chosen, or they find all manner of objections which serve so to annihilate their sense of logic, that the assumption of this profession actually becomes impossible.

Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 1927

This dude really gets me and it’s embarrassing. He saves the absolute best/worst for last:

Besides slowed movements, the expression of faint-heartedness is to be found in a certain preoccupation with over-safety and over-preparation, activities which have for their sole purpose the evasion of all responsibility.

Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 1927

Okay, I get it Alfred – I’m a big fat coward. I’ll research that a bit and get back to you – in a few years, after many more anxiety attacks, a few more faint-hearted attempts to be a writer, and another stack of note cards. You too-right bastard.

Dear Trump Apologists: No Apology Required

canstockphoto10369721Dear Trump Apologists,

In the wave of unrelenting Trump antics, you are leaping in chivalrous desperation, demanding apologies for the wives and daughters of the nation. Sit down and shut up.

Please do not do anything on my behalf. Do not feign horror at transgendered people in my bathroom (where they’ve been for years). Do not explain my biology to me. Do not offer transvaginal probes to save my fetal cells. Do not shriek think of the mothers, daughters, sisters when trying to convince rapists not to rape. Do not act dismayed when the vulgarian you nominated continues to be vulgar. Save your indignation.

Here’s the secret about marginalized people – they only get stronger with insult. They organize better, they learn how to have dialogue, and they listen. They understand that progress waits for no one to catch up. They build their own support systems. They take self-defense courses. They teach their sons and daughters well. They learn not to wait to be saved, rescued, protected, apologized to, or even treated with basic human dignity. Best of all, they vote.

If I want an apology, protection or health services from you, I’ll ask for them. Until then, there will be no fainting or lace hanky waving on my behalf. Reorient yourselves and continue your mission – there will be so many other things to apologize for by the time this election is over.


A woman human

Note: I do try to avoid these overdone topics, but I get fed up with the mock outrage and meaningless “defense of women” – it’s hypocrisy and cynicism at its worst. Most women I know can kick ass when needed. So many asses, so little time…

For What It’s Worth

I’ve been as guilty this political season of thinking in hyperbole and polarity as anyone else. Conversations trail off into head-shaking and agreeing to disagree and at times, feeling a level of hatred that I know is unhealthy and unwise. What to do?

canstockphoto19783479It’s easy to become addicted to outrage. Social media and commentary sections of news articles make one realize how easy it is to take sides, to devolve into name-calling and to become someone of whom no one should feel proud. Anger is addictive as well. And exhausting.

For months, I’ve read political articles and commentary. I thought at some point, I’d become desensitized. Instead, I became paranoid. I would look at people and think in political terms “what are you?” As soon as someone identified themselves politically, I mentally saddled them with all sorts of baggage.

It’s a problem to think coherently when rabid voices shriek from all sides and newspapers punch up their headlines for click bait. I value critical thinking above partisanship and I’m a cynic. I have never assumed any politician represents me. I have never assumed that they would make my life better.

canstockphoto16791947We have a system that ensures only those with a Teflon coating and a certain willingness to be flexible with integrity will rise to the top. And in the end, we know it’s all about the money and with it, the power it conveys. The two major party candidates are propped up by wealth and/or an illusion of wealth.

Let’s be open here. I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. Not because I have an inkling of who she is as a person. We can’t know any of that about any of these processed, packaged and politicized humans. I’m voting for her because I don’t want to see or listen to Donald Trump for the next four years.

I don’t understand what he is saying half the time and he reminds me of that drunk, creepy guy at the end of the bar who solves the world’s problems or an uncle who slurs about how you should go into business together ’cause he knows what’s what. He uses terms like “the blacks” and throws his arm around you, sliding down your back until he’s fondling your ass and leering into your face. All you notice is how long his nose hair is, as you disentangle yourself from him.

My mind associates Donald Trump with every human being who has ever made me feel uncomfortable. Hillary Clinton reminds me of a boss who I didn’t like very much, but got fondly accustomed to, pantsuits and all. I knew that her actions and words did not always convey her intent. But she was predictable and while I didn’t always believe she did the right thing, I knew what that thing would be.

All that being said, I want to step away from the table that sets people up as enemies. I want to stop seeing us and them. I want to recognize that none of us are less human because of our political choices.

canstockphoto11122072We are formed, prejudices and all, by our environment and our experiences. I learned early not to expect anything from anyone and this extends to people in public office. I assume people are either liars or wrong in their assumptions, so I rely heavily on books and doing my own research. It frustrates my husband to no end. Why can’t you just believe what someone says?

Because every time someone at the Home Depot gives me advice, I have to make four trips back to the store. Because when people say who they are, they do something that completely contradicts it. Because when a politician says he or she is an upstanding citizen, you’ll be hearing about dick pics and secret offshore funds a day later.

Not trusting people has eliminated the element of surprise and/or disappointment. Not trusting politicians means that I’m okay voting for someone who has got a lot of smoke and likely some fire, too. My outrage meter is dampened by lifelong cynicism.

I started writing a political piece as a way to blow out the pipes. I don’t want to discuss politics with you. I just want you to know that I’m trying to understand and not demonize and not condescend to you. If we start talking politics, well, neither you nor I have the skills to maintain a civil discussion. It will likely end up with a lot of spluttering.

Declaring that one of us needs to be logical or smart or just listen, damn it, is pointless. Calling each other racists or libtards or dingleberries will neither advance the argument nor our relationship. And my assumptions that you kill things for fun and your assumptions that I eat sprouted yoga mats might be wrong.

Loocanstockphoto0367299k here, I like you. I think you are an interesting person. I especially like the way you laugh. You know a good bargain when you see one. And really, that outfit is quite flattering. I’m sure you love your wife and your grandchildren, too. And I’m pretty sure you’re nice to dogs. Your nose hairs could use a trim, but other than that, you seem an alright human.


The Green Study Grumps It Up

canstockphoto2656328Lately, I’ve been writing a lot of introspective posts. It’s winter and churning in my own neuroses seems to be the sport of choice. With no lift fees. But I’m irritable and when I’m irritable, I remember every single little thing that has ever irritated me since the beginning of time. I’m going to let it all out here. And then I’m dragging my ass to the gym, because those endorphins aren’t going to manufacture themselves. Wait. Whatever – you know what I mean.

Song Lyrics that Irritate Me

Ever since I got lectured in front of the entire English class about subjunctive verbs, I can no longer listen to Paul Simon sing Homeward bound, I wish I was, without correcting him to “were”. He never listens.

The lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Firework” baffle me:

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?

I don’t know Katy, do you ever feel like a chair? Ascribing to inanimate objects emotions is just weird. I’m sorry, plastic bag, if you want to start again, but you’re just going to end up hanging out with those plastic pop holder rings and maybe kill a whale or two.

Kodaline’s “All I Want” is a simple, emotive song about being left by someone. It’s immensely singable, except when I get to this line:

You took my soul and wiped it clean
Our love was made for movie screens

First of all, nowhere in the song does it explain why he/she left him. Maybe your love was made for a restraining order. Maybe she left because the guy could only make love on a bed of toenail clippings or kept accidentally calling her by his mother’s name. Vague, throwaway sentimental lines that just happen to rhyme. Blech.

When the Corporate Overlords Try Their Hand at Customer Service

Occasionally, I don’t like to cook (on any day that ends in “y”), so I will make a dinner run for the family. Subway is one of my husband’s and daughter’s favorite places, because they like playing Russian roulette with food poisoning and have no class.

canstockphoto19454172I almost peed myself when I opened the door to our local Subway and someone screamed “Welcome to Subway!” Here’s the thing about working stoned – you can’t tell how loud you are. So I hear. I think that scaring the bejeezus out of your customers might be the opposite of what your HQ sires wish.

The Wells Fargo bank does this now, including asking loud, invasive questions about what you are doing there. Last time, I turned around and went to the ATM. I’ll store this 5 gallon bucket of change for some other time, you nosy bastards.

Walgreen’s always says some shit like be well as you leave the store. When I can smell your cigarette breath across the counter and see that 2 liter of Orange Crush that you’ve been guzzling all day, you are not going to be an arbiter of good health. Now, let me take this box of Oreos that I will be doing shots of on the way home and be on my unwell, frigging way.

I feel sorry for the poor bastards who have to wear special hats, or shout out greetings or ask me for my email/zipcode/cup size while I’m trying to make a hasty exit. I know it’s not their fault. I once worked for Radio Shack and had to answer the phone with “You’ve got questions -we’ve got answers!” Never felt so stupid in my whole life, especially since my answer was always, “Hold on, let me ask Bob” and then I’d track down my sweaty, wide-tied, polyester-shirted manager.

Here’s the thing, you corporate peckerheads – you’re not very good at this. The only thing that makes me think you give a rat’s ass about me or my community is if you hire some of these people on full-time with benefits and stop Walmarting my neighbors and friends. Stop treating them like organ-grinding monkeys doing whatever stupid dance you’ve come up with for that week. It’s the least you can do.

The Soundtracks of Our Lives

canstockphoto4075725.jpgHold music. I was on hold with my health insurance company. In between reminding me that I could go online every 5 seconds, where I’d just spent two hours trying to navigate their convoluted shit, they had the unmitigated gall to play “I’ve Had the Time of My Life”. 40 minutes later I hung up. To throw myself in traffic. Expensive, massive surgery seems to get the insurance company’s attention like nothing else.

Loud theaters. Now, I know I’m a middle-aged broad with sensory issues, but my family no longer wants to go to movie theaters. My daughter sat through “The LEGO Movie” with her hands over her ears the entire time. I don’t think my teeth are supposed to vibrate during a kid’s movie.

Commercials playing on the TVs in doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms. I am the asshole who will ask them to turn it off. I mean, as much as I love to see mouths full of rotten teeth transformed and the precision bowel resections, I am reminded of all the pharmacy ads exhorting us to ask our doctors. Am I going from the waiting room into the examination room with dreams full of elective shit I don’t need so they can make a profit? No, but I am completely tense and nauseous. Excuse me if my blood pressure seems a little high.canstockphoto7609379

Well, off to the gym to be annoyed by oblivious cell phone chatters and grunting protein freaks and the Spandex apocalypse. I’ll be surrounded by superheroes without capes.

I’m going to need a really, really long run. Be well. Hey – I heard that.

How to Lose Friends and Ignore People: A Dealer’s Fable

It was 1975, the year Squeaky Fromme attempted to assassinate President Ford. It was a volatile year. Charlie Chaplin got knighted and the Watergate gang was convicted. In local news, a crime wave was hitting the grocery store a block from where I lived. A thief was lurking among Safeway’s aisles – dressed like a seven-year old girl. Sometimes in a Girl Scout uniform.

I prowled the aisles, shifty-eyed and indiscriminate in my larcenous hunger. Some days it was the candy near the checkout lanes, but other days, I’d be emboldened by the surplus gum packs down the aisles. I was a second grade shoplifter.

canstockphoto9650094I didn’t take it for myself. I took it for my friends of the future. Friends who would gather about my locker clamoring “I want one, too!” I gained a reputation. I could hook you up. Sometimes it was Tic-Tacs, other days I got a line on some Bits O’ Honey. Kids talked to me, shot me secret smiles in the hallway. I had what they wanted and they provided what I wanted – the illusion of being liked.

The nobility of poverty is bullshit. As one of the shyest, poorest kids in my grade, my character was in need of self-esteem and cash. I didn’t get the whole “being enough on one’s own”.  I was not a likable child. I was quiet, horribly self-conscious and somber. And then there was The Incident, which triggered my life/week in crime.

canstockphoto0952980Spelling test day. October 1975. Substitute teacher – the mean one. The order was always to push our desks apart for tests. Second graders are well-known for their propensity towards plagiarism and skulduggery. We were scattered about the room and given strict instructions to not speak unless spoken to. If we wanted to be spoken to, we must raise our hands. Up to this point, I followed rules. The letter of the law had no spirit.

I’m a bit of a freaky speller, so I smugly finished the test within minutes. I would have savored my success, tapping my eraser on the desk to let the other students know what canstockphoto2706524dunces they were, had it not been for the milk at lunch. I’d held out through recess. I’d held out through reading time. It was time. I raised my hand to go to the bathroom. The teacher wasn’t looking. I raised my hand a little higher, starting to shift in my seat. She kept her back to me. The rule was not to speak. I did not speak. I did, however, pee. And still, I remained silent.

We pushed our desks back together. At seven, child development experts say that children have reached the Age of Reason, when intellectual capacities are more developed, as is the ability to lie. I reasoned that since I was no longer in the same locale, my secret would remain undiscovered, but I had not yet honed my lying skills.

“Who did this?” The teacher shot red angry beams from her eyes. Sparks snapped and crackled off her fingertips. Her hair stood on end and the vein in her neck throbbed. Well, I was seven. She looked scary. She pointed to the large yellow puddle in the middle of the floor.

I raised my hand slowly and her fiery glare zeroed in on me.

Oh – NOW you see my hand, lady?!

canstockphoto12906996I was marched down to the nurse’s office where I was changed into clown clothes or whatever was in the lost and found that day. Do not ask about the underwear. I try not to think about it.

That was the day I turned towards the darkness. A day of singular humiliation. Until a week later, when Martin peed his pants and got sent to the nurse’s office, after which he wore what looked like girl’s bell bottoms all day long. But it was too late by then. I had ground to regain. I had gum to steal.

There should be a moral to this story. I didn’t get caught. I didn’t find a true friend who was uninterested in a sugar high. The store owner didn’t befriend my little bedraggled self. I got tired of being afraid. I wasn’t getting an adrenaline high from the steal, I was getting a rumbling, burbling stomach. Likely the Bit O’ Honey didn’t help (always test your own goods).

Getting tired of being afraid. It’s sometimes as simple and selfish as that. I got tired over the years of dealing with friends who I didn’t really trust. I got tired of worrying about whether or not people thought I was good or smart or kind or friendly enough. I got tired of living life as if it weren’t my own. It’s an amoral fable of the unrealized criminal. The payoff isn’t good enough to justify the anxiety.

Forty years later, I realize that I learned three very important life lessons in 1975.

  • Real friends don’t need to be bribed at the cost of your personal integrity.
  • Speak up on your own behalf. Some rules are just stupid.
  • Go to the restroom whenever you get the chance.

In the Unlikely Event of My Happiness

canstockphoto21074062I’ve been freezing up at the keyboard. This last week freaked me out a bit. In the course of a week, my subscribed followers jumped by 1000+ readers, crossing over the 10,000 mark. The Likes on this Freshly Pressed post exceeded 1400. I answered 300+ comments.

I’d never experienced anything like this in the four years I’ve been blogging. I have to believe that it is because, for the first time ever on this blog, I used the word “clusterfuck”.

I’ve had the thought all week that okay, I’m done. Really, where do I go from here? Does this extra attention mean I need to change my blog theme, open a Twitter account, punch up my rhetoric, Instagram a boob selfie and find a picture from 20 years ago where I look less wrinkly and put it on the blog? What is expected of me now?

Panic. That’s what an introvert does when they get a little attention. The moment of glee morphed into dread over the week. Give me a moment of unmitigated joy and I’ll anxiously stomp on it before someone or something else does. Premeditated squashing.

This is how I move forward, never lingering too long, never resting on laurels, never asking for more. I think about happiness and what that might mean for me. I think about all the well-meaning advice of the attitude-of-gratitude-too-blessed-to-be-stressed crowd. I think, as I often have over the years, what is wrong with me?

canstockphoto15489769It’s easy to be a discontented, restless, and striving person in a world that feeds it. Consumerism is based on fomenting dissatisfaction, while memes of puppies, flowers and Buddhists exhort us to be happy in the moment. Meanwhile, Likes, Hits, Follows, Stars, Views, are all feeding the message that more is better. But more is just more.

When it comes to figuring out what makes a person happy, it gets weird. We are so often told what should/might/will likely make us happy that when it doesn’t, we’re left feeling that there is something wrong with us. I must remind myself what has, historically, been happy-making for me.

Solitude. I am often happiest as a party of one. It’s when I’m working in the garden, dirty from head to toe with sweat dripping into my eyes. Sitting back on my haunches, I notice the flurry of life around me, bees and butterflies and frantic squirrels – and I get to be right in the middle of it. Being part of something greater, I feel the privilege of being alive.

Love. Never one long for sentiment, I feel my attachments like ligaments to bone. A child who makes me see everything all over again. A man who baffles me with patience. Friends who have raucous laughs and who are, when I say “I need to be alone”, understanding, not bruised.

canstockphoto10265804A story. There’s that ending to a book, when I sit back and sigh. Marvelous. The writer was a magician performing sleight of hand. Who wouldn’t want that kind of skill – the ability to take a reader out of themselves?

Odd sources of happiness. I’m happiest when my desk is clean, when I’ve written something that makes me laugh, when I’m in the middle of a run, looking on the verge of a cardiac event, red-faced and dripping with sweat. There are extrinsic things that make me happy: coffee, when I make someone else laugh, live music, and being outdoors.

Like the ten pairs of glasses a middle-aged myopic owns, the things that make me happy have never been where I looked for them. It’s in the looking and striving that causes the disappointment and pain. In never expecting happiness as a given, I find myself constantly surprised.

I think of that unalienable right, in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, to the “pursuit of happiness”. Pursuit suggests a high speed chase, and less a saunter. If happiness requires a chase, it’s getting away. I stroll. I sit on park benches for long periods of time. And when a happy event runs me over, I have to sit with it for a long time to see that it’s a good thing.

In the end, I’ve realized that the things that make me happy will likely always make me happy, with an occasional addition, like my current addiction to burritos or meeting fellow writers.

When something happens, like a blog post exploding, I can marvel/freak out in the moment, but then it’s time to get back to being me, a bemused, caffeinated, and sardonic depressive who likes to write. Whee. Let the good times roll.

What makes you happy?