All posts by Karen

I'm a psychotherapist and a writer of fiction and non-fiction. I live and work on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,

Are we the last generation of Americans…

Who are proud of their country? Who feel safer than any other people in the world? Who can trust in law and justice?

While we are waiting (for the answers, for the inevitable, for????)… Let’s talk about other stuff.

We are having a beautiful fall. And even in the realm of the political, it feels like the Trump brouhaha has awakened a sleeping populace (ours), which is a good thing. More and varied opinions are being expressed in public.

My understanding of things is that his (DJT) insecurities make it quite difficult for him to make an unpopular decision. He wants to please. Unfortunately, he often wants to please white nationalists or neo-Nazis, or Vladimir. Things trip lightly and mindlessly off his tongue and I think of John McCain’s famous little ditty: “Bomb, bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran.” We all took that as a bit of humor. Not so much humor to be taken from Trump’s words.

He is truly a wild card. His ego can’t handle any sleights or any (perceived) failure of respect, so he becomes wildly agitated. It hasn’t helped, of course, that his Secretary of State called him a fucking moron. But someone had to say what so many have been thinking. And, strangely, Trump has not yet fired Tillerson. Instead, he has challenged him to an IQ test. The absurd just gets absurder (and, yes, I know I was just docked two IQ points for not saying “more absurd.” Just a little moronic solidarity with dear leader.)

MORON

First of all: Hello! I know it’s been a while. But I’m still here…

Sometimes there’s a word that needs no explanation, a word that completely conveys an important truth or aspect of reality. Today the word “moron” has entered that zone. I modify it only as follows: Moron in Chief. Yes. That’s who he is. That’s who is sitting on his gold and bacon throne in the White House (you mean you didn’t know he had a throne made of equal parts of gold and bacon? Come on…where have you been?)

Not that naming someone or something defuses their power…enough to calm the jumping jacks going on in my stomach since the big “M” assumed the mantel of leadership (and I use that term loosely). No. The saying (or even braying) of that word doesn’t make everything all better. But it really feels so good to hear that particular truth sung out in public. Maybe next we can say “f…ing idiot.” Maybe.

For me the word demands that a question be answered: What the hell do we do while the country is being led (yes, yes – I know there is no actual ‘leading’ going on) by a moron? How do we cope, mitigate the impact, keep from crying all the time, or keep oneself from overdosing on Häagen-Dazs? No easy answer. But you know It’s the hard questions for which they pay me the big bucks.

First of all, the most important thing is not to surrender; no loss of heart please – keep hope alive. All those trite things your parents used to say: this too shall pass; what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; right makes might; only the good die young – Oh, wait…I think I’ve lost the thread. What I’m trying to say is… as bad as it is with the big blond moron as head of state – if we stay present with each other and our deepest moral truths, we will still be here when he is but a weird footnote in American history.

Of course, I do realize that it is also true that we are balanced precariously on a precipice. (Is that redundant?) So we have to not lose sight of the delicacy of our position.

Here’s the thing about morons – of the truly deviant kind. They can produce a big pile of moronic shit, but we do not have to step in it. And, if we don’t, it’s kind of likely that they – okay let’s drop the generalization – he will turn all hurt and whiny; he – who has the thinnest of skins – will forget about everything else and just complain that he isn’t getting the respect he deserves, that we all are ungrateful and misguided (that is if he actually knows any three syllable words).

I would be happy to see that, because the more his narcissism becomes his only sensibility, the less likely he will be to put any of his moronic ideas into practice. And the ideal outcome of this horror show of a presidency will be to have his tenure pass without him setting permanently destructive forces loose on our land or in our world.

So, let’s keep the moron occupied with his cherished outrage; don’t let him catch his breath.

Say it with me:

YOU’RE A MORON!!

Why doesn’t money make us sick?

Now – I’m not talking about the evils of filthy lucre…although I could (and maybe I should). No. I mean literally: Why do our bills get passed endlessly from hand to hand (until they fall apart), inevitably coming in contact with various and sundry bacteria and viruses, without causing a pandemic of contagion? Is there something we should be paying attention to in this? Can we extrapolate to our widespread well-being?

Seems to me (true: I’m not a doctor, nor do I even play one on TV) that there is some protective force at work.

I’m going to posit that the melding of our various bacteria creates a kind of cancelling effect. Basically, I think they knock each other out. Could I be right? Could this be a simple, non-technological method of health control? Just fire when ready and assail the societal body with every nasty microbe that can be mustered. It sounds like going nuclear, but I may be onto something big here.

Who’s up for an experiment? No? Chicken? Come on – what do we have to lose? Oh…just everything. Hmmm.

Oh, Birdbrain

Yes. You. I’m talkin’ to you. No – my dear readers – this is in no way a slanderous salutation. Rather, it’ me having a (one-sided) chat with a seagull.

She turns her head so she can look at me through one beady eye. What could you be thinking? She is standing off to the right of my beach chair, about ten feet away. Just standing – for quite a while.

I am, of course, free to project my notions of the inner workings of her tiny brain. Inevitably, I will give her more credit than she likely deserves.

I think she knows a storm is coming: we’re due for a soaker this afternoon. She has instincts if not much intelligence, so she can probably feel the change in barometric pressure or in the ambient energy.

She’s a seagull. I must give her a name: Heather Gale Seagull. She is not alone. I take note that birds of her ilk (and also something smaller – dunno what that is) seem to be arraying themselves. Waiting. They are waiting.

Do they capitalize on the churning waters that accompany the storm and find fish close to the surface or in a kind of distress that makes them easier prey? I’m just spitballing here. I don’t actually know.

Today, my PIC and I are well situated. Front row, to the right of the concentration of surf-gazers around the lifeguard chair.

As a flock (is that right – or is it a gaggle, a bunch?) of gulls fly overhead, they call to each other and I’m instantly reminded of Steve Allen (oldies know who I mean – others must google his name), who often said – in a high-pitched voice: SCHMOCK, SCHMOCK – the closest he could get – in 1950’s America – to saying “schmuck” on national TV.

 

And now – from the benign to the truly evil…SAND FLIES. First of all, they’re not supposed to show up until late afternoon. That’s the rule (Karen’s 2nd, in case you are keeping track). So why are you little demons biting my ankles at 10:30 in the morning? Fortunately, they are not fans of my suntan lotion which I have now slathered self-protectively.

Chair, Hat, Towel, Umbrella, Water, Notepad and Pen: That seems like everything I could ever need in this world. Sure, that’s a beautiful sentiment and it remains as my core truth for about two minutes until I realize I’m starting to get hungry. So now my focus is on figuring out the earliest acceptable time to eat and then planning backwards from that.

Beach post #1:Tranquility Base (except for the radio that is 20 ft. from my left ear…)

Just as I was enjoying the calm, two schmuckarina’s sat down and turned on their mini-boom box (do they still call them that?)

This is Karen’s Third Law of Peace & Quiet: “If you have achieved a small slice of nirvana (let’s call that ‘nirv’), someone or something will feel compelled to add both volume and toxicity to your serene space.” I believe it’s a magnetic kind of thing.  The forces of chaos and clutter are madly attracted to anything that resembles silence.

They (the forces) say (with a slightly Germanic accent) “NO SOUP – I mean, NO SUPINITY for you. Go eat some stone soup!”

Beach Post #2: Nature Calls

And then there is the more challenging than you would think activity of peeing in the ocean. When the waves are heaving and rippling at frequent intervals, there is a tug of war in the bladder between release (ahhhh!) and the preparation for flight. Each small wave that collides with your body evokes a probably self-protective response, which clenches and therefore effectively shuts down the system. I spent about a half hour in the surf trying to resolve this conflict, rather than trek the equivalent of two city blocks back to the hotel.

This, I am certain, is TMI. I claim beach brain as my excuse/justification…

Beach Post #3: Randomness Reigneth

I sit here, observing a large contingent of what I deem to be Eastern Europeans. I deduce their land of origin from their dangerously pale skin and the penchant of some of them for wearing high top black shoes on the beach. Na Zdorovie, Comrades.

As a somewhat professional observer of human nature, I am in a kind of heaven here. An almost unimaginable array of shapes, sizes and ages are moving about across my field of vision. The diverse horde is missing a significant element, however. No darker skin-tones are evident. Have I lurched unwittingly onto a ‘whites only’ beach? Or has segregation become so embedded that non-Caucasians don’t even consider showing up here?

As I write this, I pause to more carefully scan the area – maybe my assessment has been incomplete…

Nope. Everybody is lily white (or splotchy red.) Those I had momentarily deemed to be of other racial groups turned out to be hardened sun-worshipers of the leather-skinned variety.

Another surprising observation is how many pregnant women are here taking in the sun and surf. I’m pretty sure that back in the day (we’re talking 40 years ago) preggo’s stayed zu Hause. No trudging imbalancedly across the wide hot sands. Are women now made of stronger stuff? Or have we just become more willing to roll the dice of fate.

On a wholly other note, my friend (and she is my true friend) – the ocean, is as crisply inviting as ever. The wash of danger (which has increased as my age-linked capacity to keep my balance when wacked by the fast-moving watery churn has waned) adds a nice jolt of energy to the endeavor.

Another anti-social word or two –

I am grousing in response to a self-inflicted irritant. I like being in the front row. Yes, we are still talking about the beach. I like having no one obscuring my view of the roiling water. Now, it would have been far better if I remembered that when we were setting up umbrella and chairs, because three people, ignorant of my rightful position, put their big-assed selves right in front of me. Rat-bastards! I do feel righteous resentment and will not apologize.

And, as if things couldn’t get any better (or worse) – a freakin’ ice-cream man, pushing a hand truck of frozen goodies just walked by. My gracious PIC volunteered to go get me some chocolate ices! But, alas, he returned with something else: a cone of red-colored ice. It was sugar to the 12th power and no more than a quick lick was tolerable. A disappointment – but one that could not for long undermine the warm, breezy wonder of the day.

THE SCHOOL FOR JEWISH MOTHERS

Here’s a book idea I’ve been toying with. I may never write it, (who knows? vu den?) but I think the outline is worth sharing. Let me know what you think:

THE SCHOOL FOR JEWISH MOTHERS or

My head’s in the oven, the gas in on, but don’t worry about me.

Course Curriculum

  1. Kvetching
  2. Shaming
  3. Force-feeding
  4. Guilt (Master’s level course available)
  5. Inducing insufficiency
  6. Inducing dependence
  7. Abandonment and overconnection: the duality
  8. Boundary-less-ness
  9. Intrusiveness
  10. Masochism (the illusion)
  11. The many variations of “oy”

Prerequisites

  1. Sore feet or a little arthritis
  2. The ability to whine on command
  3. The ability to kill with a look
  4. No sense of humor
  5. A flair for the obvious
  6. The uncanny ability to sense vulnerability

Phrases to live by

  1. Eat a little something. I thought it was your favorite…what am I, wrong?
  2. Don’t worry about me. It’s okay if I’m all alone.
  3. I did everything for you and this is how you repay me?
  4. You should only know.
  5. Don’t ask.

 

 

OBJECT LOVE

By “object love” I don’t mean to suggest a love for other persons – who are sometimes referred to in self-conscious psychological discourse as “objects.” I’m talkin’ inanimate stuff. Things. The material world.

As Americans, it is – I believe – part of our national identity to be enamored by things. We certainly love our homes, cars, clothes, and many of our personal possessions. We collect objects – as a hobby, a pastime. For some it’s a life’s work. Many lose the distinction between them and us. If we have great stuff, then we are great. We are loathe to part with that stuff – so we store it in attics, in basements. There’s an entire industry that exists solely to contain and preserve the things we don’t use but can’t part with. Storage facilities. We will pay forever to keep those belongings we don’t even remember that we have.

On a lesser but included level, there are smaller, less publicly visible items which infuse us with delight or pride or fascination or some other much-desired emotion; those are the things we love with an equally abiding intensity. A watch or twenty, a scarf or dozens, the illegible and now faded first written words of our offspring, or the love letter from the boy or girl we used to know.

Sometimes our love (as love is wont to do) just attaches itself to something for no clear or comprehensible reason. And so, I acknowledge that I love my garbage pail. It’s an indoor brown plastic number with a step-on lever that raises the lid. It’s oversized for an indoor trash receptacle – so one of its desirable qualities is that I don’t have to bend down hardly at all to throw things away. But that is by no means the whole story of my strange affection. There’s that certain something about its rounded shape, its ample roominess, its…je ne said quois. When I see it, I feel more complete, like everything is right with the world. How can a garbage pail produce those deep feelings? As I said, je ne sais quois. It is one of the enigmas of life.

Since Homo sapiens invented the written word, treatises, great books and sonnets have been devoted to the mysteries of love. Please add this small bloggish offering to that trans-millennium-long human aspiration for understanding and exposition. You know what Gertrude would have said if she read this: A love is a love is a love.

THE RETURN OF THE JEDI? No…

The return of the horn blower upstairs. …the source, the impetus, the raison d’être for this blog; the reason I have to remind myself on a daily basis: DON’T KILL YOUR NEIGHBOR (Please, sir, may I?)

You know how it is: when pain disappears we have a tendency to forget about it. It’s nature’s way.

All of a sudden this evening, as I sat relaxing, watching television, I heard a sound which at first I couldn’t identify. Was someone being killed? Should I call the police? Then, with that sick, cold feeling of dread spreading from my stomach to all parts of my body, I knew…

He’s baaaaack! The sanctity of my home, my privacy, my beloved quiet – was ripped asunder once again.

Immediately, I was thrown into full-on mm (that’s murderous mode). My PIC attempted to calm me as I careened, wild-eyed through the rooms of my apartment, seeking escape from the earworm of cacophony from upstairs. I had been in a fool’s calm. The old reality was still in play.

So, the story continues, I will, each day, confront my ultimate dilemma: Should I or shouldn’t I? So far, I’m still listening to the voice which urges me:

Don’t kill your neighbor!

Boys will be boys…or not

So…I’ve been signing all my emails today: “We are all transgender.”

And – as you will understand – I’m reacting to el presidente’s evil words and would-be deeds.

But, I think my statement is true.

Consider this… If you are honest, you will admit that you don’t always feel like the gender you were assigned at birth. Men, don’t you sometimes feel a little (or a lot) like a girl? And I’m sure that my fellow women (see what I did there?) will acknowledge that there are times when you really feel like a guy. It’s normal (you should pardon the expression). We are multiplistic; an amalgamation. We are most certainly not one-dimensional in our sexuality or our gender identification.

Actually, I believe that embracing our trans-selves is both freeing and strengthening. To the degree to which we believe we have to play it like “a girl” or ” a boy” – that’s the degree to which we are self-limiting. Sort of like playing with only half the deck.

Parents are in the primary position of influencing where we stand on this issue of essential transgenderality. They can easily convey disapproval for any behavior outside the narrow bounds of a single gender. On the other hand, those mothers and fathers who are accepting of the blending of maleness and femaleness are most likely to produce children who are comfortable with all aspects of themselves.

Not to belabor this…I’m just sayin’…

Best foot forward?

How to determine which is your best foot? Longest or shortest? Fattest or thinnest? Strength vs. beauty? And why put it forward? Why not hold it in reserve – perhaps sacrificing your worst foot to the vagaries of street life, especially in the unprotected summer-sandals months.

I’m thinking of long toes – which were once prized as an attribute of a royal bloodline.

Do long toes a best foot make? Or is it musculature – the powerful arch that can spur a great sprinter or support a long-distance runner or fuel an extended bout of hopping or skipping?

I know how obscure this issue might seem – but you know how this blog works… its what’s on my mind.

I confess to a bit of embarrassment, if not downright shame, about my non-best foot. It always seems like an interloper. No matter how good I’m feeling about myself or my body, there it is – the second piece of my unmatched set of anatomical foundations. A strangely long second toe with a bit of a knobby knuckle (nicely alliterative, don’t you think?)

I fear I have crossed over into the TMI zone…so I’ll stop now.

In solidarity: We are all transgender.