“learning to leave well enough alone”

Image result for red kayak on lake

Sunday Morning Early
by David Romtvedt

My daughter and I paddle red kayaks
across the lake. Pulling hard,
we slip easily through the water.
Far from either shore, it hits me
that my daughter is a young woman
and suddenly everything is a metaphor
for how short a time we are granted:

the red boats on the blue-black water,
the russet and gold of late summer’s grasses,
the empty sky. We stop and listen to the stillness.
I say, “It’s Sunday, and here we are
in the church of the out of doors,”
then wish I’d kept quiet. That’s the trick in life—
learning to leave well enough alone.

Our boats drift to where the chirring
of grasshoppers reaches us from the rocky hills.
A clap of thunder. I want to say something truer
than I love you. I want my daughter to know that,
through her, I live a life that was closed to me.
I paddle up, lean out, and touch her hand.
I start to speak then stop.

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Early intervention for psychosis

FEP

Relatability

In a previous post, “I Think I’ll Forego Exposure Therapy,” I wrote about my fear of garbage disposals and hinted at my wobbly relationship with retaining walls. While these fears mean little in any world other than my own (and certainly mean less-than-little when compared with genuine life-and-death fears so many people endure day in and day out around the globe), I was trying, in my own adorably sardonic way, to get at something larger, deeper — and more relatable: that we all of us are inhabited by irrational fears that arise and withdraw seemingly of their own volition.

Where they reside when they are not making mischief is a great mystery. And even more interesting is why we have ended up with our unique configurations of fears in the first place. (Granted, though, that dread of being eaten alive seems a very reasonable terror if you happen to live in close proximity to tigers that enter your village at night in search of food.)

And/or

But fear of clowns? Or fear of parakeets, trees, rain, the color yellow, belly buttons, the pope, the number 13, beards, and holes — all well-documented phobias. From whence do these come? And what purpose do they serve individually and collectively?

Although my irrational fear of garbage disposals tilts in the direction of delusion because mine is clearly a false belief about the power these gadgets have over me, I actually live outside this belief and can laugh at myself whenever the fear tries to take hold.

Psychosis

For those who live with psychosis, however, these fears and delusions are all too real and intractable. Without early intervention and treatment, they daily live with what can be debilitating delusions, hallucinations, and other symptoms — with the onset of these symptoms typically occurring in those who are between ages 16 and 25.

Hope

Having worked since last summer with young adults in this age range who have experienced their first episode of psychosis, I have seen firsthand that, if treatment begins early, there is every hope they can be spared a lifetime of disability and can go on to live fulfilling, healthy lives.

For resources about first-episode psychosis programs, click HERE.

I think I’ll forego exposure therapy.

I have a confession to make: I am petrified of garbage disposals, and nothing I do to try and erase, or to at least minimize, the panic I feel when I flick on the switch allows me to enter my walled off, inner townhouse, where the persuasive Ms. Terror lives with her eloquent companion Mr. Delusion. If I could just get in the front door, maybe they would let me talk some sense into them.

Of course it is possible to argue that the fear is necessary because, without it, I would have pulverized a hand and a forearm long ago had I not known to flick off the switch prior to thrusting them down a slimy grinding chamber to retrieve rattling bits I well knew didn’t belong anywhere near the disposal’s most fearsome part: its blades.

And it’s those blades, you see, that terrify me most because I have this belief that there is nothing I can do to prevent my hand from finding its own way down an activated disposal even if I don’t give consent. So each time I discover that my digits and limbs are still intact after I’ve used a disposal, I breathe a sigh of relief and think I’ve forestalled calamity once again.

Perhaps I won’t tell you about my decades-long fear of driving next to cement retaining walls.

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That “demoralizing daily obsession”

Depending upon which moment of which day you catch me, I am either elated at the prospect that Mr. Trump and his goons will soon go down in flames or I am hangdog about the fact that we are stuck with him (and them) for at least another 1332 days, 11 hours, 10 minutes, and 38 seconds (but who’s counting?).

This morning, I experienced that emotional roller coaster ride within a 15-minute span when first I read Chris Riotta’s encouraging Newsweek piece titled

“Experts Upgrade Donald Trump’s Impeachment Odds As Russian Investigation Looms”

and next I read Andrew O’Hehir’s mega bummer of an article from Salon, which was preceded by this cold-water-in-the-face title:

“Wake Up, Liberals: There Will be No 2018 ‘Blue Wave,’ No Democratic Majority and No Impeachment”

Both articles appeared in one of Alternet’s digest of top stories, which I daily receive in an email. Today, though, while trying to understand how these antithetical pronouncements could simultaneously be true, I thought about what The New Yorker’s David Remnick wrote in his brilliant article “A Hundred Days of Trump“:

His Presidency has become the demoralizing daily obsession of anyone concerned with global security, the vitality of the natural world, the national health, constitutionalism, civil rights, criminal justice, a free press, science, public education, and the distinction between fact and its opposite.

My obsession with the state of affairs in our diminished and diminishing democracy is indeed “demoralizing,” not only because I cannot make sense of a nation shot through with a spreading stain of violent, me-first thuggery but also because those who are paid to try and make sense of it are banging around in the pitch dark, too.

I like to be in America! ♫

Travel industry: airplane and luggage going to North America

Yesterday, I visited the woman who colors and cuts my hair. I can’t remember how it came to pass that I told her I was Jewish, but as soon as I did our wheels screeched on the asphalt and the conversation came to a halt. “What’s Jewish?” she wanted to know. I thought she was kidding.

“What do you mean?” I asked, incredulous.

“I don’t know what Jewish is,” she said. “Growing up, I remember hearing that, if you were Jewish, they would let you come to America.” She’s from Africa, and she has been in this country for many years.

There was such innocence to her questioning that I couldn’t be offended, though her ignorance reflects “the world’s longest hatred” and holds within it a certain dominant and persistent strand of antisemitism: Jews, the racist stereotype suggests, are unfathomable “others” who, because of their great, hoarded wealth, will have the doors flung wide for them wherever in the world they wish to go. Even that mythic place called America will roll out the red carpet for them.

I didn’t tell her about the time in America when I ran from boys who were screaming, “Go back where you came from, you dirty Jew” as they pelted me with rocks. Or the time a high school German teacher asked me to recite Rudolph’s reindeer, and, when I came up short, said in front of 25 snickering children, “Just because you’re Jewish doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know their names.” Or the time I was alone in a diner and two young men spotted the tiniest Star of David around my neck, chased me into the parking lot, shouted taunts at me, and tailgated me on the freeway until I managed to lose them. Or the times our heat and electricity were shut off because my mother couldn’t pay the bill. Or the times we awoke to find an empty driveway because someone had come to repossess her car in the middle of the night.

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Voice as Rorschach

Robert Siegel, longtime host of NPR's All Things Considered, will be leaving his role in 2018.

Driving home from work each evening, I generally listen to NPR’s All Things Considered — and with more attention than I might otherwise muster after a long day. I have enjoyed all the co-hosts, but I especially enjoyed listening to Melissa Block, who left the program in 2015 after having been a part of it for 12 years.

Though it is difficult to describe the qualities that make for a beautiful speaking voice, I can say that Block somehow made me feel like I was the only member of her listening audience. There was a tender, silver-throated warmth to her and a sense, too, that I could pull up a chair to her table and sip a cup of tea with her while she delivered the day’s news; still, she always seemed to have absolute mastery over the delivery of any story.

My feelings about Robert Siegel’s voice, on the other hand, have been shot through with judgment. A radio veteran who has been with the program for 30 years, Siegel has “[o]ne of the most distinctive voices on NPR’s airwaves“; yet, while it may be that off-air he is a very kind soul, his voice sounds just this side of about-to-make-a-mockery. And, from the sound of it I have always seen him thus: pink-faced; thin and small; balded; dressed during summer in short-sleeved shirts; thin, bowed lips the color of raspberry Popsicle.

It wasn’t until I learned that he was retiring that I had an occasion to see his photo, and I have to say I was taken aback. There is a darker density to him that I do not hear when I listen to him speak. I hadn’t imagined the facial hair either, which certainly changes things.

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