So A Psychologist Asked How I’m Doing

*Ring—Ring*

“Hello, this is Dr. _________.”

“Hi, Dr.____________. This is Adam Jones. We spoke about eighteen months ago, in your old office. Does that ring a bell?”

Pause.

“Ah, yes.   How are you, Adam?”

A longer pause.

With a light chuckle, I replied, “Well, not a 100%, which is why we are talking now.”

Chuckling back, the doctor replied, “Yea, I always feel weird the moment that question comes out of my mouth. Don’t know why I keep doing that.”

Well now, I thought, the psychologist is the uncomfortable one in this conversation. This is kind of fun!

“That’s okay, doctor. That’s the point, after all. And it gets the restorative process going.”

The good doctor laughed. And I smiled, knowing we would soon get together and spend lots of time discussing the question, “How are you?”

***

Since hitting forty I’ve taken measures to insure my bodily safety and physical health. I take no unnecessary physical risks; if involved in handyman work and when using power tools I proceed slowly and I wear safety glasses and ear protection; I drive defensively and cautiously; I go the gym; I (mostly) eat well; I also take vitamins, drink enough clean water, and see an acupuncturist to maintain good sleep patterns.

I do these things primarily to make sure I’m physically around for Vivian and Suzanne for a long, healthy time.

This safety and health awareness is all necessary and good to be here for them, but it is insufficient.

A difficult question recently entered my mind that I could not answer: What good am I if I’m physically in the same room with Vivian but not actually there because my mind is heavy and distracted? If I cannot mentally function and engage and grow with Vivian, what good is a fit frame? I’m concerned about physically being there for Vivian and Suzanne, but if I’m checked out mentally aren’t they really without their Daddy and husband on occasion?

Vivian and Suzanne lost me one day last week. We were physically together in the house, before and after school, before and after work. I was here in body. But I was not here. My mind was heavy and burdened, incapable of being in or enjoying one moment with my Loves.

Why would I not talk to someone when there is so much to lose, so many future moments to miss?

So the next day I drove to the psychologist’s office, parked the car, picked up the phone, and called. I paused before hitting the call button.  But I hit it. (I don’t know why but it is difficult to take that step with mental health.) We set up a time to meet and I committed to being there. And the moment we hung up I felt better, knowing the first step in the right direction was taken.

I wrestled with the decision to share this experience. I’m doing so because I suspect there is someone on the other side of this screen who feels the need to pursue better mental health.  If there is someone there who knows they need to reach out to someone, I hope this bit of scribbling encourages them to touch that call button.

I hope it helps you.

Oh, and feel free to use my line if the person on the other end of the phone asks, ”How are you?” Go ahead, have fun with it.

And, seriously, how are you?

 

 

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Middle Age Leftovers

I’ve noticed leftovers of slowly cooked pastas, stews, and braises taste better and are more enjoyable than the day they were made. (I just enjoyed leftover beef pot roast braised in a red wine and butter reduction.) The spices and latent natural goodness that come together in the cooking process need time to marinate and come out vividly and richly, apparently.

I’m hoping the middle-age years and beyond are similar, like delicious and savory leftovers of early adulthood.

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I Just Wanted That New Boston Creme Croissant?

I did not plan on playing interpreter between an irritable elderly customer in a Walmart scooter and a kind Dunkin’ Donuts employee from India whose patience appeared to be thinning. But there I stood, head swinging to and fro, enjoying my unexpected duties.

I immediately noticed the kerfuffle when I walked into Dunkin Donuts. In addition to the lady’s elevated voice, the eyes of the customers at the tables indicated things were heating up at the cash register. They were glancing at the drama, averting their eyes, then peeking back. High calorie processed donuts were not their only guilty pleasure that morning.

The elderly lady bawled, as she pointed her finger at a picture on the wall, “BAGEL! I said, BAGEL!” Her finger jabbed in rhythm with the syllables of BA-GEL!

In sharp contrast, the employee responded calmly, robotically almost, his respectful tone most likely a professionally and culturally-obligated one at this point: “Yes, bacon.  We have bacon, ma’am.  Plenty of bacon if you wish.”  It was evident this was not their first exchange.

Ah, a simple miscommunication, I thought. Bacon. Bagel. Lost in translation. I got this. And so I went in to assist, uninvited.

The entire transaction, I’m happy to report, was cleared up inside a minute. I was their new best friend, uninvited as I was. Some direct eye contact, a few hand gestures, and a smiling face was all that was needed to dissipate the mounting stress and confusion. We soon got on with her order and, consequently, I got closer to that new Boston crème croissant—the reason, so I thought,  I stepped into Dunkin Donuts and between these two unintentional antagonists.

After my interpretive task was fulfilled I silently took sides with the DD employee. She continued to grouse at the fellow after he began preparing her bagelShe even complained about the four cents she had to claw around for.

“$4.04?! Where’d you get the four cents?!” she huffed.

She then jerked another dollar out of her purse and threw it on the counter in what could only be taken as a rude gesture. All that irascibility was not enough for her, though—she then grumbled about the spare change she would get back. There is an endearing way to be cranky, I thought, and you are certainly not nailing it.

He won the day when he gave back the dollar she threw on the counter: “My gift for you, ma’am. Don’t worry about the four cents.” His gesture made her grunt something under her breath and look away. His measured response was like burning coals upon her head. Killing her with kindness.  Well-played, sir!

When I finally got to sit down and savor the new Boston crème croissant within earshot of Crankiness-On-Wheels (who was still complaining, by the way, this time while eating her BA-GEL!), I glanced at the man behind the counter. I wondered why I didn’t idly stand in line and let them muddle through it all. I’m incurably curious about things, too many things, probably, so I tried to identify how and why I did something nice for these strangers.  Was it enlightened self-interest? I wanted that new Boston crème croissant and the boggled transaction was holding up the line. Do a good deed, wait less time for a yummy pastry.  Motivation rooted in sheer, visceral sustenance is understandable: Food, there.  Belly, here. Remove all barriers between.

Maybe I liked the idea of tackling an unexpected challenge, on the spot? Hey, look at this! I dabble in south-central Pennsylvania Dutchified English.  I’ve also chatted with that nice man. This’ll be fun. Game on! I do enjoy overcoming small, spur-of-the-moment challenges.

It was most likely an urge to be useful through fulfilling the needs of others. People seem to find satisfaction through identifying the needs of others and seeing their efforts help fulfill those needs, so they seek pleasure through fulfilling the needs of others. I am not trying to portray the act of facilitating a cheesy ham croissant to an irascible old crank and relieving a kind man of his professionally-obligated stress of delivering said cheesy ham croissant as some laudable act of charity. On the contrary.   It was not altruistic—it was a self-serving act of fulfilling a need to be useful.   I could not find altruism—an act of complete selflessness—anywhere in my the occurrence.

They needed something.  I needed some things.  I helped.  Everyone ended up (relatively) happy, so the deed was “good”.  It was all good.

Like that decadent Boston creme croissant.  Or a cheesy ham BA-GEL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Out Of Square

“I have bad news about your deck, Adam. It is not square to the house.”

This observation came from no casual observer. Brian is an experienced professional, and he was in our back yard preparing to install a paver patio. On paper his new patio and the existing deck attached to our house would meet up beautifully and geometrically.

On dirt, they did not.

His pavers were rectangular and square. The builder’s square he used to set the corners of patios was three feet long on each side. Clearly, the outward side of his patio that was going to meet up against the deck would extend from the house and into the yard at a clean and aesthetically-pleasing 90 degree angle. His patio was going to be just how it should be.

Also clearly, the existing deck did not extend into the yard at 90 degrees. It was not square, not at right angles. Not right, literally.

Brian said your deck, not the deck. Moments prior to his announcement I proudly informed him that I built our three-level deck with three sets of stairs. All by myself. Yep! I took full ownership of the deck’s existence. I did not say so much, but my face probably exuded a look of, Not bad for a guy who is not a real carpenter but occasionally plays one in real life, eh?

Well, as Brian’s professional eye noticed, it was bad.

What is it, by the way, about talking to a person good at their craft that encourages one to seek their approval, maybe impress them a bit? I’d like to think I was trying to make a connection with a person who would be working in our back yard for a few days, maybe learn something in the process. I don’t know.

(In my defense, it is a difficult task to not confuse our imagination with our memories. Add pride to the process and, like the deck in our yard, memories are likely to be out-of-square to reality.)

So there we stood. Brian, with his geometrically irrefutable truth, and I, with a cup of coffee and a freshly-fractured male ego, looking at the out of square deck. My deck. The choice was clear: conjure up and mumble a pathetic excuse or own up, learn something, and move on.

I went a third way. Weasel out of the moment with humor: “Yea, well, Pfft! Doesn’t surprise me. I know the carpenter.”

He smiled.

It would be nice if I always had Brian along, or someone or something, to keep everything I make, think, say, or do square and at right angles. Right, literally and figuratively—just how they should be.

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