Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve.

How are you doing this holiday season?

I wasn't supposed to be alone tonight. Also, my sister wasn't supposed to be recovering from an emergency appendectomy that, it turns out, she may not have needed. Amazon wasn't supposed to forget to send my nephew's gift and give me a refund instead of Club Penguin for Nintendo. And my car wasn't supposed to be trapped a week past the big blizzard of '09, thanks to D.C.'s aversion to plowing side streets.

But when you are wrapping presents in your warm apartment with Christmas music playing and colored lights and plenty of food and water, and those presents are for family that you're going to see tomorrow (if you can get a ride), you start to realize you're a dick for moping around.

And how was your decade? If you're like most other people, according to the media, the millennium's opening salvo pretty much sucked for you. It's true that as a country, we took a beating in the 2000s. Accordingly, most of us did individually too. Is there anyone who had an awesome decade in the 2000s? Not even Tiger Woods can say so now.

Personally, a lot of bad shit went down for me this past decade. But isn't every decade like that? Does any one person have an "up" decade? I now think of the '80s that way, but I was in junior high and high school in the '80s, so it's a good bet that at this point I'm deluded. Maybe from the haze of the 2020s I'll think of the 2000s as pretty fricking super.

A lot of good stuff happened this decade too. For me, I left New York when it was my time to leave. I learned to cook, sort of. I met people too awesome to even imagine: my sister's children, for example. I texted. I had a life-changing night here.

I'm sure there's some other good stuff, I just can't think of it right now.

Some other thoughts this evening:

Cougar Town is OK, but not great.

Carol Burnett recorded a Christmas song. Who knew?

Church St. in Dupont Circle is next to a church. Duh.

The church bells at the church next to Church St. might actually make you a believer if you listen to them while you watch families leave services with glow sticks on Christmas Eve.

A Christmas Story is still perfect. It was perfect when my family decided to make a tradition of watching it on VHS on Christmas Eves in the '80s, and it's perfect now that TBS runs marathons and it's no longer our little secret.

I just broke my front tooth. Just now. On toffee. It's a crown. It's the second time I've broken a front-tooth crown in the last two months. I first broke my front teeth when I fell down in an icy parking lot in December seven years ago. Ever since then I've had porcelain front teeth, and I've had dreams where my teeth fall out or break. This is the decade of those dreams coming true.

Here's to no broken teeth in the 2010s. Here's to your holiday and your 2010s.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Actual Headlines From My Apartment Building's Newsletter, July/Aug 2009.

Happy Birthday, America!

Build Your Body Knowledge: Lymph Nodes

Zero-Dollar Vacations ("Take one day or a whole week to do absolutely nothing. Put on your favorite music and close your eyes. Don't clean, pay bills, go shopping, wash laundry or cook gourmet meals. Just truly relax." Presumably the authors would prefer that you take this vacation from paying bills in the first three weeks of the month, when rent is not due.)

Change Is Good -- and Healthy (Except, perhaps, when it comes to residences?)

Reduce Your Debt by Dining In

Fitness Tip: Skip the Cart (Golf cart, that is. My guess is this tip might be useful for 0-1 percent of this landlord's populace. The last time I saw a cart of any kind was at the P St. Whole Foods. It's true, however, that I did get a workout from skipping that cart and carrying my items in a handbasket.)

Parking Violators, Beware!

Up, Up and Away ("What would become the world's largest manufacturer or commercial aircraft got its start July 15, 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle.")

Oldies but Goodies (list of celebrity birthdays)

Know Your Lingo ("Jibba \jib-buh\ adj. Awesome, sweet or excellent." Interestingly, this definition is not one of the two meanings listed on Urban Dictionary.)

Geography 101: Mauritius

Monthly Celebrations (National Hot Dog Month, etc.)

Word Search

Sadly, this is the one and only newsletter I have received since moving into the building in June. The appearance of the newsletter itself was as random as its contents.

Music: "A Day in the Life"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Night Stand: "Duffle Bag Boy"

The first time I heard this song was on a Chris Rock concert video. The next time was on a Katt Williams video. So those two comedians had already drilled it into my head and my iPod already by the time it served as exposition in The Carter.

The documentary about Lil' Wayne uses the song to punctuate his substance abuse, flashing its opening callout about "weed n' syrup 'till I die" over footage of him. Perhaps this and similar moments are what prompted Lil' Wayne's decision to legally oppose theatrical release for the movie, even though he initially collaborated with the filmmakers.

I suppose it's too late to get Lil' Wayne to correct the spelling of duffel bag in the song's title. Anyway, I'm sure the residents of the Belgian town for which the bag is apparently named are used to the alternate spelling by now. It's just something that bugs me a little. But hey, now I know we got the duffel bag from Belgium.

I haven't been able to get the song out of my head since watching The Carter the other night. I am sad that Lil' Wayne is going to prison and inseminating women left and right, thus risking his career and finances. To me, this and other performances, along with his ambition to release a rock-rap album, make him someone that the rap game needs right now. And yes, I am a white nerd who has no business typing the phrase "rap game." But you know what I'm saying.

Music: "Duffle Bag Boy"

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Treatment.

I can't seem to interest anyone I know in this show, even though it's brilliant. When I bring it up, the responses range from some variation on "Sounds boring" to "I don't want to watch a show about people blathering about their problems." This latter response always confuses me, because aren't most non-comedic TV shows about other people's problems?

I haven't watched season 2 of In Treatment yet. Part of me is afraid it won't be as good as season 1. So I am re-watching season 1 first.

While watching a scene where one of the characters has a breakthrough, I asked myself whether therapy had ever really helped me. Did I ever have that fabled breakthrough, in the handful of times I sought counseling? Do those kind of moments really happen?

In Treatment doesn't glorify therapy or therapists, and that's one of the reasons I like it. It shows that therapists are as screwed up as the rest of us (which we already knew) and how thankless and treacherous their job can be (which maybe we didn't). But it also shows some pretty smart head-shrinking.

I thought about the professionals I'd seen and whether any of them really changed my life. On the "no" side, I've never left therapy because I felt like I'd worked through the problem I came there for. Usually, I left because I wasn't getting what I needed, or because life circumstances forced me to. On the "yes" side, certain comments made by these therapists have stayed with me over several years. The following are not direct quotes, but are the gist of what was said as far as I remember.

The comment: I'm not sure about this, but I think on some level, your parents don't want you to succeed. If you asked them, I'm sure they would swear up and down that of course they want you to succeed, and they would be telling the truth. But I think they don't want to lose you.
My reaction: This was shocking and offensive to me at first. I was 23 at the time and considering a move to New York, which got an unenthusiastic response at home. I remember the therapist being very tentative about sharing his theory -- he said that the idea was just occurring to him, and he didn't sound certain. This may have been a tactic, but I remember being enthralled. It made me feel like this wise person and I were figuring something out together, and it made me listen closely. Still, it was a very troubling assertion. My parents had been nothing but supportive my whole life! How could he say that? But it was a simple overstatement of a layered truth. Of course my parents wanted me to succeed. But when "success" might entail departure from the DMV... eehhhh.
Did it help? Yes. It made me realize I need to be more responsible for my own decisions and that even though my parents love me a lot, they aren't always going to know what's best for me. This sounds obvious now, but at that age it was a bitter pill to swallow.

The comment: Do you realize that when you [behave in a certain way], you are actually causing [your boyfriend] tremendous pain?
My reaction: At first, my reaction was no. I didn't think I had much of an impact on this person in general, so it seemed like the therapist was just being dramatic. On second thought, maybe my actions were causing real emotional pain. Maybe he was truly hurt after all -- but too bad. I was angry with him about some stuff, and what I felt was more important.
Did it help? Not until later. I finally realized that if you are pulling a bunch of b.s. and the other person is getting upset with you, the answer isn't to justify and/or repeat your b.s. The answer is to ask yourself why you feel the need to pull the b.s. (and deep down, we always know when we're pulling b.s.) instead of a) working out your beef with your loved one or b) cutting bait because you're in a situation that isn't working.

The comment: Can you imagine that a long-term monogamous relationship would actually deepen and get more interesting over time, as opposed to being "boring"?
My reaction: No.
Did it help? Yes and no. I have reason to understand the truth of this idea now, and I think back to that comment often, but no one can make you feel that way if you aren't in the right place with the right person.

The comment: I recommend that you read a book called The Good Marriage.
The reaction: I got the book.
Did it help? Yes. Unlike most marriage books, which focus on fixing what's wrong, this book surveys people who are happy in their marriages and classifies the unions according to four types: traditional, romantic, companionate, and rescue. It didn't give me answers for my situation, because no book can do that, but it gave me some context and perspective.

The comment: For engaged people, I usually recommend therapy, because if they are having issues with getting married those issues need to be explored. But if you're already married... I recommend the antidepressants.
The reaction: Shock, plus a desire to laugh and cry at the same time. I am not making this up, a therapist actually said that to me. She was the same one who recommended the book and said some other insightful things mixed in with dubious things, so the fact that she was batshit and a shill for pharmaceutical companies did not become undeniable until our third session, when she uttered this statement.
Did it help? It helped me avoid wasting my time further with her, yes.

The comment: What does your dad do?
My reaction: Huh?
Did it help? No. I was in college and came in to the student health service as a senior extremely Freaked Out About Life. I felt that my situation was dire, and yet every comment I made was met with an inventory-style question. I would say, for example, "I'm afraid I might be in a depression. I'm really worried about what I'm going to do when I graduate," and the counselor would go, "Mm hm, and are your parents still married?" It is the single weirdest and worst counseling experience I've ever had, and that's even counting the batshit therapist who wanted me to take drugs because I was married.

Has therapy ever helped you (or let you down)?

Music: "The Operation"