Take Care Of Yourself! A Conversation.

Why can’t you take care of yourself?

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

You don’t know how to take care of yourself!

Why do you say that?

Because you don’t! You sit around. You let things go. You withdraw into books. You are struggling in your work. You struggle to exercise and get outside in the sun. You are unfulfilled and feel stuck in your life but still you do nothing!

I think you are being a bit critical. I do things.

You do the bare minimum just to get by.

Really?

Yes, and then you expect others to pick up the slack. To take care of the things you don’t want to take care of. To take care of you.

I don’t know about this. I have a business where I help others every day.

Yes, but you are a fraud. You are no better than your clients. You are trying to get well or to manage, just as they are. I do not think you are fit to serve. Just like you need to be fit to run a marathon you need to be fit to serve. Maybe the reason why your job does not make you happy is because you are running in a marathon without being in good shape?

I have not thought of it like that. I think I am fit to serve because I am trying to be a better person every day. I am trying to more effectively deal with the crap I have inherited from my parents- my past conditioning. I am trying to manage it more effectively so it does not make me a miserable person. This continual effort I think makes me fit to serve.

Maybe. You have part of the equation correct but you are still unwilling to do things that would make you happier and healthier in life.

What do you mean?

What do you mean?

What?

You don’t want to take charge. You don’t want to cut the bullshit. You don’t want to stop staying stuck. You don’t want to do the hard work that it would take to change things for the better. You don’t want to push yourself.

Maybe. But I do what I can. I try.

Yes, but this is not enough. You are just staying stuck in the convenience of habit. You are not willing to change and so you make do with what is. This is bullshit! Push yourself man. Do not be so fearful of hard work!

Maybe it is about accepting what is. Maybe it is about not trying to change anything but instead just making peace with what is? Maybe the reason why humans are so fucked up is because we are not able to just make peace with things as they are? We are very critical of ourselves and others and think things should be how we think they should be. Maybe when we become really critical it does not actually motivate change but instead creates more depression and unhappiness. I think you may be going about it the wrong way.

You are saying that it is about accepting things as they are? Accepting your lack of motivation. Accepting that you do what you can (which, by the way is never enough), accepting that you can’t really get things done, accepting that you have a hard time taking care of yourself? You are basically saying just accept that the garden is not being taken care of and let it stay in its disheveled and dried out state?

I suppose I am saying do what you can and accept that. Maybe a person is not meant to have a beautiful garden because they, for whatever reason, are not able to devote the time and energy needed. In this case the person needs to be able to accept that they have a garden that is not perfect. That is partially dried out. That it is not much tended to. Such is life. What I am saying is that in just accepting things as they are, even though they may not be desirable, it releases a person from all the stress and unhappiness that comes up as a result of trying to fix and change things and thinking things are not good enough. Maybe change happens through accepting what is.

I don’t know man. I think this is the greatest act of rationalizing one’s own illogical bullshit that I have ever heard. I think you are just perpetuating the status quo. You are just trying to accept the status quo. Anyone who is great never got anywhere with the perspective you are articulating. No one has ever mastered anything or become really skilled and successful thinking like that. That train of thought will get you nowhere besides right where you are which is struggling to take care of yourself.

I understand this. But maybe my work is in accepting that I will not be that person who is great, masterful and successful and super productive. That that is not who I am. This is just not in the deck of cards for me. Perhaps happiness for me is in accepting that this is just not who I am.

But you have talent. You have potential. You could do whatever you want. You could be great. You could have a beautiful garden if you pushed yourself more.

Maybe so, but maybe I am just not that kind of person. Maybe I am more fated to live an imperfect life. A life of slowness or no great achievements. Maybe I am just going to be average. Maybe I am going to need help along the way. Maybe I am just that kind of person.

And you are ok with this? You really want to accept this?

I see no other way if I don’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life.

Bullshit man. You know this is bullshit. You just don’t want to do the hard work.

Maybe so. I don’t remember ever being a fan of hard work.

Ok. There is no making sense with you. You are not getting it. You want to keep sitting on your ass and just let all the potential in your life go- go ahead. You want others to take care of you. You don’t want to deal with the hard stuff. Ok. Fuck it. I am not getting anywhere with you.

You know, what? I don’t like how you are talking to me. I think this conversation is done.

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The Jaywalker

“Jaywalker!”

This is what my client shouted out her car window as she drove past me crossing the street. I was startled and almost dropped the black coffee I held in my hand and the cigarette I had in my mouth. Like a child caught doing something wrong but still trying to pretend like there is nothing wrong, I smiled and gave a friendly wave back at her as she drove away in her silver Tesla. I then returned to work.

I am the kind of person who crosses the street when and wherever I need to. I just cross. I do not like the idea of being told what to do by two painted lines on asphalt. Crossing in the crosswalk causes me to feel bad about myself. Like I am doing something that I know is not good for me. I often feel no different than a cow obediently following along.

I prefer to jaywalk and will explain why this illegal act is so important for mental health in a bit.

But first….

I didn’t think much more about it for the rest of the afternoon and got lost in trying to help my psychotherapy clients solve some of their unsolvable problems. The good thing about being a psychotherapist is that you can forget about your own problems for a while, pretend like you have none, and focus on someone else’s troubled inner world. I am often surprised when I come home from work and find several problems waiting for me. “Oh, hey,” I say. “I almost forgot about you.”

The following day, my client who caught me jaywalking did not show up for her appointment. Really? This was odd behavior since I had been working with her for over a year. She came to every appointment and would often say that her life depended on psychotherapy. She had no communication with any of her children and lived alone in a large and beautiful home. She was continually unhappy about her life and felt like psychotherapy helped her to work things out and become a better person in her mid-life. I sent her a text asking if she was still going to make it to our scheduled session but did not receive a response that day. Or the next.

I knew that my client had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder by a previous therapist, but I tried not to see her in the light of this diagnosis. Diagnosis helps no one is my general belief. I know that Borderline Personality Disorder causes a person to go from loving you to disliking and being angry with you at the snap of two fingers, but I wanted to believe that our therapeutic relationship was more stable than this. We would work through anything that came up, I told myself. We seemed to get along perfectly well but it is always tough to tell when a personality disorder is present in the room. When I did not receive any response from my text after a few days, I knew that something was wrong. It was obvious to me that she was condemning me for illegally crossing the street.

I realize that many people do not like the idea of being given advice from someone who walks outside of two lines painted on asphalt. A jaywalker has a negative connotation in our much too obedient, rule driven society. Everyone is expected to walk within the lines and those who do not are harshly judged. If I am a jaywalker what other rules do I break? I must be troubled person if I can’t even cross the street within the lines. What an irresponsible professional I must be. My client was a CEO of a large corporation and I knew that she deeply respects rules and expects everyone to follow them. Still I assumed that when she yelled out her Tesla window, “Jaywalker!” she was just playing around with me. A funny coincidence passing your therapist jaywalking in mid-afternoon on a crowded street. I did not realize that her yelling at me was actually an angry condemnation. How dare I illegally cross the street. I should know better. This sort of thing.

I realize that my brain has a tendency to jump towards the worst case scenario. I once had a meditation teacher who told me, “You have the kind of brain that when you walk down the street and you notice a rope in the middle of the street you immediately assume it is a snake. It takes you a few minutes to realize that it is just a rope.” Fair enough. I have done a lot of work to correct this psychological disability but being born and raised Jewish predestines a person to certain amount of self-created psychological duress, which is impossible to correct. The best a person can do is be aware of when their disability is causing them to experience the world in a way which is not true. A person who can’t do this is often called psychotic.

I don’t want to be psychotic. I want to know what I am doing when I do it.

It is possible that my client is not thinking what I think she is thinking. It is possible that not soon after passing me she was in a serious car accident and is now dead. It is odd that she suddenly stopped coming to our sessions and will not reply to my texts but as a person who works with so many people, it is not unusual for a few to every so often be suddenly and without notice recruited out of this life.

I was warned once by another psychotherapist to never work with people with Borderline Personality Disorder. “They will make your life miserable. At first you will think they are the nicest and most interesting people. They will tell you how much you are helping them and make you feel great about yourself. Then suddenly POW!!! When you do one thing that they think is wrong you will be punished.” I have never been very good at taking other people’s advice but now that I am left feeling like I was unfairly judged for jaywalking, I see what he meant.

I’ve had to keep in mind the words of the troubled philosopher Seneca who wrote in exile, “No man is despised by another unless he is first despised by himself.” I obviously have no problem with jaywalking. I enjoy jaywalking. It is my trivial way of saying fuck you to the law-abiding world. I would never want any kind of advice from someone who does not know how to walk outside of the lines. As our society becomes increasingly entrenched within narrow minded laws and mindless conformity, walking outside the lines has become a way to exercise one’s autonomy.

The person who is not continually exercising their autonomy is doomed to struggle with mental illness, often a fundamental symptom of conformity. Therefore, I see it as my responsibility as a mental health professional to jaywalk. It is impossible to conform and have mental health. Conformity to the way of life in our current society creates immense mental health problems. What use am I to my clients if I am unable to do what is best for my own mental health?

As I lay in bed last evening I was thinking that maybe it was the act of jaywalking with a cigarette in my mouth that turned my client against me. I realize that psychotherapists are supposed to be examples of responsibility and health and seeing me cross the street in an illegal way while smoking may have destroyed the illusion all professionals are publicly supposed to create. It is possible that my client could not tolerate seeing me as my authentic self. Maybe it is my fault for being caught with my guard down while out in public. I don’t really know. All this thinking is madness. This is the problem with having relationships with people with Borderline Personality Disorder. Suddenly you are left feeling like you have done something terribly wrong but you don’t know what. They are good at taking the madness that is in their brains and inserting it into yours.

Jaywalking is one of the final ways I have left to protest a society that is all about following rigid and suffocating rules. When I was young I would spend entire days in protest marches but now I do not have the time or energy to do this. I also live in an area where acts of political protest do not exist. So for now, jaywalking is the best I can do to convince myself that some degree of an activist rebel is still alive in me despite living a more professional, suburban, middle-class life. If my client doesn’t like it, to hell with her.

“You are better off without her,” my wife said to me as she sat in bed next to me and intuited that I was still trying to figure out what went wrong with my client. “You are right,” I said to my wife. We turned out the bedroom lights and I placed my arms around her and pulled her into my body. Before falling asleep I thought, I am better off without her. This is advice I am going to take. Just let it go.

The Jaywalker. Part One.

Casey Neistat, YouTube and The Decline of Art

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Casey Neistat.

Have you heard of this guy?

If not, you should check him out for a few reasons.

First reason, because he is a creative genius. The independently created, daily video blogs he made (and still makes) for several years are genius.

Second reason, because he is revolutionizing (innovating) the technological landscape in which all of us live now, single handily. It would not be a far stretch to call him the second coming of Steve Jobs.

Third, because he is a very inspiring human being.

And finally, because he could be contributing to the decline of art (unintentionally of course).

A few weeks ago, I did not know who Casey Neistat was. How is it that I am so behind on what is really contemporary and what is shaping the world in which I live? How is it that I am so asleep at the wheel with regards to what is cutting edge? I will try and answer these questions in a moment. But first….

Someone whom I respect told me that I should check out this guy by the name of Casey Neistat’s Youtube channel. So I did and thus began a week of being completely immersed in most of the video blogs Casey has created. My wife started to addictively watch as well and suddenly we were happily immersed in Casey Neistat’s world.

Now, I don’t want this to come off as a negative critique of Casey Neistat. I don’t know him personally but I really like the guy. He is someone whom I would want to be friends with. He is a freak, with a brilliant and kind mind and I respect that. But as an artist, I am concerned about how an inspiring person like Casey Neistat, who reaches a tremendous number of young people, could cause the state of art to really take a nose dive.

Casey has a tremendous amount of energy. As an older man (45 years old) I envy his immense and unstoppable energy. Who knows what I could accomplish if I had twenty five percent, hell ten percent of the energy he has. Ever since my wife and I started watching his videos, we have felt more motivated to do things. We have been getting off our lazy asses more. We have been accomplishing more. We have been busier, healthier and have taken care of many of the things we procrastinated on for years. But we have also read less, listened to music less and just hung out in our lives less. As artists, is this a good thing?

 

You see, there is an art to lingering. Doing nothing is a very important part of being an artist. Without doing nothing for long periods of time, the quality of the work will suffer. I know that Casey Neistat thinks it is a good thing to stay busy all the fucking time. I know that he thinks free time and relaxation are detrimental to a productive life, but these things are essential for the creation of a work of art which has depth and quality.

Being busy all the time works for Casey because he is a creative genius, not an artist. I fear what will happen to the quality of art if too many artists think that staying busy is a good thing. I fear that art will lose depth.

Artists linger and dwell in moments. Artists procrastinate on getting things done so they can spend more time dwelling in moments. This is an essential ingredient in any work of art that has depth. What was it that Gertrud Stein said? Something like an artist must spend ninety percent of their time doing nothing so that ten percent of their time can be spent making good art (I am paraphrasing).

Artists absorb experience and let these experiences percolate just under the surface. Their experiences often need a long period of gestation in order to turn into a work of art which stands on its own and has depth.

Steve Jobs was a creative genius but he was not an artist. In the same way Casey Neistat is a creative genius but he is not an artist. Casey has these daily bursts of inspiration that get pumped out and put into the world (as creative geniuses often do) rather than deep, lingering acts of creation (which, is what art is). Maybe all of Casey Neistat’s work as a whole can be looked at as a single art piece. Maybe the collected life of Casey Neistat will ultimately be his work of art.

Art makes us feel something on a very deep level. It reminds us of the historical aspects of ourselves. Casey Neistat is a genius but there is a difference between Casey Neistat and say artists like Joan Miro, Duchamp, Richard Brautigan, Stanley Kubrick, Kafka, Rothko and on and on and on.

 

There is no doubt that Casey Neistat’s legacy will be himself as a person. What will live beyond his death is the video blog and businesses that he created. But not one of his works (say an individual video blog) will stand out on its own. His work as a whole is genius but he will not be remembered in the same way we remember the individual works of artists.

An artist is known for the work itself. Half of the works of art that I love, I have no idea about their creator. With art, the work stands on its own. The work of art unto itself is enough. Casey Neistat will be remembered for his character, as the person he is and as a brilliant entrepreneur. His video blog is very much about the person. It is a part of his business or businesses. He basically runs a self-made video, entertainment business empire. But it is not art.

Art should not always be boring but it should not always seek to be entertaining also. Reading Infinite Jest, the reader is coming in direct contact with a very deep work of art. But at many points in the book it is hard work to keep reading. It is not entertaining at all. It is often tedious. If art is entertaining all the time, I don’t think we could call it art.

After watching a lot of Casey’s videos, I am left with the memory of him. His energy, his philosophy and his fervor for work have really inspired my wife and I. We both love the guy. But I really do not remember any individual pieces of work (videos). Casey Neistat’s work exists in my mind as a whole rather than as individual parts. And as an artist it is the parts or the induvial works that are important, not the artist’s life as a whole (this is secondary, not primary).

I worry that too many artists will be inspired by someone like Casey Neistat and other brilliant productivity video bloggers. They might feel bad that they have been lingering around, spending too much time lost in their minds and not getting anything done. Nooooooooooooooooooo! Please don’t let this happen. As artists, you are doing exactly what you should be doing. Keep sitting around!

Artists need to be good at doing nothing. Artists need to be expert lingerers. Creative geniuses on the other hand need to be good at getting shit done. But for a great novel or painting to be created, that artist needs to spend a lot of time doing nothing. They need to swim down to the depths of their beings, down where it is often dark, murky and filled with existential pain. There is no way an artist can do this if they keep busy and are always being entertained.

To answer my two questions at the beginning of this essay, this is probably why I never heard of Casey Neistat up until a few weeks ago. I spend a lot of time outside of time and just sitting around. I may not be aware of what is cutting edge and contemporary but I think I have made a lot of art that has depth.

I am glad that there are brilliant, creative and energetic entrepreneurs like Casey Neistat out there in the world. We need them to counteract all the boring crap non-creative business people make. My hope is that business people like Casey Neistat will inspire other business people to stop making crap. This is a very positive thing and I am grateful to Casey for this. But if you are an artist please don’t get depressed and feel bad that you are not up at five in the morning running and then on the go all day, every day, everywhere. This would be detrimental to you and your work as an artist. If you were always busy, if you had no free time, you would not have the time to go deep within yourself and pull from these depths works of art that in the end, if good enough, inspire people like Casey to do what they do.

For all you artists out there, please- don’t just do something. Instead, sit there and settle down.

Going Broke! Conversation #29.

What are you doing?

Stressing out. Trying to get work done.

Stressing about what?

Stressing that my business is in decline! I am not making much money now! Concerned about that. Don’t want to have to get another degrading job that I do not care about. Don’t like feeling like my business is failing. Unsettling. I feel unsettled. I also have debts I need to pay back. Bills. Don’t like feeling like money is such a big issue.

Welcome to the world.

Some people have so much money. Pisses me off that I am someone who has to struggle for money, sell my soul for money and worry about money when I am not making much of it. There are people out their living with so much money!

Yes. But they are the few.

They are the winners.

In some ways.

And I am the loser.

In some ways.

Thanks.

Sure.

And, and, and I am so dependent on others to pay me money! I don’t like this dependency. I need to get clients so that I can get paid. I need people to want to pay me. This means I need to get people to want to come and see me. This means I have to be really into what I do! I need to work harder. I need to present to others like I am really into my work as a therapist. That I love it and am serious.

You have to hustle.

Yes, and I am not a hustler.

You have to really hustle. You are in panic mode. You need to do what you have to do to keep your business afloat.

I know. And this pisses me off because now the business that I don’t even really like that much, the business that burns me out when it is busy, is the business I really need and want! What the hell? It is the business that I am so dependent on. It is messed up how much money or the lack of money can drive a person to do things and love things that they would normally not do and love.

So you like having money?

I do like money. I say I don’t care. I say I don’t care that much about it but that is bullshit. I want money! Give me money! I don’t need a lot. Just enough to maintain a humble lifestyle for me and my wife and dogs. I just don’t want to have to work for it. I hate working. Maybe if it was work that I enjoyed, like getting paid to draw or write, I would like work. But as things stand now, I really do not enjoy work but I love having money!

I see. Well, you are in a quagmire. Your business is not doing so well right now. You do not have as much money as you feel you need to maintain your current lifestyle.

Yes.

So you have to hustle. Hustle means to pretend to be something you are not. You have to pretend to really be into what you are doing. You also feel like because you are pretending, because you are not really grateful and happy to do the work you are doing, you some how are bringing this decline in business upon yourself.

Yes. There is some of that. I wish I was really passionate about and loved the work I did. Maybe then things would be different. I have been trying to fake it until I make it. It is taking a while catch on. Maybe I have brought this economic decline upon myself because I am not as grateful for the work I do as maybe I should be.

This is a possibility. If anything, your panic shows you how dependent on your job you really are.

Not sure how I feel about this. I help people to get unstuck in their lives but I am stuck!

Well we teach and preach the thing that we most need to learn in our own lives.

Maybe. But I feel like I should have this stuff figured out before I help others to try and figure it out.

Don’t tell people what they should do. Avoid the “should-do’s” if you can’t do it yourself. Just lend your ear. Listen and support.

Yeah. It is hard to keep clients this way. People want to be told what they should do when they are paying money.

True. So what are we talking about here? I feel like we have gone off topic. You were complaining. I like it when you complain. It’s pathetic but entertaining.

Really?

I think so. So what were you complaining about?

Just the quagmire that I am in. Business is bad. I am not making the kind of money I need to make. I have to hustle to get more clients. I need more business. But I don’t like that I have to do this because I am not that passionate about the work in the first place! Plus I hate having to be dependent on other people to give me money.

Yeah, you are stuck.

I know! You don’t need to tell me this.

Yes I do.

No you don’t! I feel it every day. My alcohol and weed consumption is going up. I am aware I am fucking stuck!

You want my advice?

Yes!

Well, go water your garden. Read a book. Listen to music. Just try and chill out. Let it work itself out. Do what you can and then just let let it go. Enjoy your life. It is what it is. Now you have more time to read and write. Take advantage of the time rather than spending it worrying. Your business will fill up again at some point. Don’t spend this time worrying and complaining. Just try and take advantage of having more free time. Let the future take care of itself. Take things day by day.

Ok. I will give this a try.

And since you are making less money try not to spend as much money. Stay home more, read more. Learn to need what you already have rather than needing what you don’t have.

Yes. I do need to make an effort to spend less now.

To be less of a consumer.

Yes.

It is true I think. I think being less of a consumer will give you more time to just be home and do the things you like doing. you should work on finishing your novel.

Yes. Ok, I will try and but some of this into action. Thank you for this consultation.

No problem. I need to go relax now. Remember: Don’t panic. You will be ok. Spend less. You will find a way.