The Nose Picker

My grandfather was a nose picker and so was my father. Most of my memories of both my father and my grandfather is of them picking their noses. My grandfather used to roll his boogers up in to small balls and flick them across the room. My father would continually pick his nose while talking on the phone, reading the newspaper, having a conversation or while watching television. As a child I would watch him pick his nose and swear that I would never be like that. I imagined how repulsed my mother must of been while watching her sexual mate go fishing into his swollen nostrils. The other day when my girlfriend said to me, “you are such a nose picker,” you can image the degree of shame and disappointment that I felt upon realizing that I had become the kind of man I swore that I would never be.

You know that saying that the fruit does not fall far from the tree? Well, the entire theory of genetic inheritance is based upon the idea that we acquire many of the same biological and character traits as our parents. Shit. I thought that I could somehow out run this reality. I spent the majority of my teenage years and my adult life working hard at being nothing like my grandfather and father. I spent hundreds of hours in therapy, read hundreds of books that I hoped would implant into my brain a thought process that was antithetical to the ideas of my father. I constructed my entire life out of using my father as a model of what not to be in this world. I have even spent hours looking at myself in the mirror trying to make sure that my facial expressions and my posture looked nothing like his. But I realize that when there are cracks things slip through- and I have a lot of cracks so it was destined to happen someway, sometime. For years I have been a chronic nose picker. What scares me most is that nose picking is so deep in my DNA that most of the time I am unaware of the fact that I am indeed picking my nose.

However, with all of this said, I recognize that having a genetic predisposition to nose picking is not entirely to blame for my chronic nose picking habits. I blame a lot of my nose picking on environmental conditions and stress/anxiety. I realize that I live in a dirty world. The air is dirty and so are most other things that I come into contact with on a daily basis. Dirty, dirty, dirty. Also I do have a rather large Jewish nose, which makes it easier for the snot to get in and collect. Nose picking is not just some mindless act that I am doing because my father and grandfather conditioned the act into my mind. I pick my nose to clean out the pipes, to relieve the pressure that the booger build up creates. I pick my nose for the same reasons that a person sweeps dust off of the kitchen floor or scrubs grime and grease off of the kitchen sink or bathtub- I want to keep things clean.

I have recently also realized that I pick my nose to distract myself from symptoms of anxiety that I am feeling. Nose picking takes my mind off of whatever anxious thoughts that I am having. I preoccupy myself with my finger in my nose. Nose picking allows me to become grounded in the present moment and to distract myself from the fear of impending doom which often causes my body to go into fight or flight mode. I have learned to use the act of nose picking as a kind of ant-anxiety medication. Having my finger in my nose calms my mind, rolling my boogers into nice rounded balls gives me something to do other than worry. Nose picking gives me much needed relief.

I have found that one of the more difficult things about growing older is coming to terms with who I really am (behind the chronic day dreams). Having to make peace with the fact that I too pick my nose when driving, watching television, reading and having a conversation has not been an easy undertaking (the other evening my girlfriend caught me picking my nose while having sex with her. I am so concerned and bothered that I did this without any awareness that I do not want to discuss it any further here. I mean when else am I picking my nose and unaware? What if I do it while working with clients? Or while in other public places? Very concerning.). I am trying to accept that when it comes to nose picking my fruit does not fall far from my father and grandfathers tree. I know that I need to do something about this ailment because I am starting to find boogers lying around the house. This feels very unsanitary. Plus my girlfriend is starting to become concerned about my habit. She bought me a Neti pot, which is supposed to help with cleaning the sludge out from my nasal passages but I am uncomfortable running salt water up my nose. Makes me feel like I am drowning. I do confess to enjoying the act of nose picking. It is a simple pleasure and I need all the simple pleasures that I can get. However, I realize that it is a simple pleasure that has gone a bit too far. If some day I ever end up having a son or a daughter, nose picking is not a disorder that I want to pass onto him or her. So I realize that it is of utmost importance that I break this negative and often disturbing family cycle now. I just picked my nose as I wrote that. Shit.

Don’t Fit Me Inside That Box!

It seems like there are boxes all around. They are not your average cardboard box. No these boxes are tall, large and can fit thousands of people in them. These boxes can not be seen from the outside. They can only be felt and identified when having a conversation with a person who is in one. The older I get the more that I realize that America is a country made out of boxes. But the thing about American boxes is that everyone is in denial that they are there. The majority are squeezed into one box or another and when confronted about these they demand that you come into the box with them or else you are derided, scorned and pushed outside. Americans love their boxes. They feel safe, purposeful and important inside. Greed and profit build these boxes. Anderson Cooper, Fox News and every other corporate entity builds these boxes. Fear builds these boxes. They build these boxes out of an intellectual rational, a logic and/or a philosophy that really means nothing outside of the box. Like prisoners who learn to love their jailers, Americans love their narrow-minded boxes.

I have been trying for so long to stay out of these boxes but man has got to eat and in America it is difficult to make money without choosing a box to squeeze within. In my effort to find an honest professions I have tried to comfortably fit myself into several different kinds of boxes but I have not been able to remain in them long. I start to have difficulty breathing and feel as if my soul is being diminished. So I make my way out of the box (which is not often a pleasurable experience because those who remain in the boxes are envious of your escape and will do what they can to block the doorway) and once I am out in fresh air my breathing is able to return to some semblance of normalcy. My soul begins to regrow and I feel relieved of all the angst that I felt when I was trapped inside the box. But then after a few days of living outside of the box a worry begins to grow in my mind. “What am I going to do with my life?” “How am I going to make money?” “How will I be able to have some kind of cultural legitimacy without a box to fit in?” All these questions and more get stronger day after day of living outside of the box and eventually I find myself checking out new boxes and investigating if there is room for me to move inside. The cycle is like that mythological snake that seems to continually be eating its own tail- such is American life.

A year ago I found my way into an academic box. I returned to graduate school (for the third time) in order to become a psychotherapist. What I did not take into consideration was that while in the academic box I was going to have to make a very tight squeeze into an even smaller, more rigidified box, which is the professional box. With all of my physical and mental muscle I am trying to keep one foot in the box and one outside of the box but this can be exhausting when existing halfway in a box that feels as if it demands total conformity. Currently I want to burn the box down but this is the genius aspect of institutionalized and organizational boxes. You can burn down these boxes but what happens in the end is that new boxes are immediately erected, the majority of people step back inside of them even more loyal to their boxes than before and you (the one who burned the box down) are no longer allowed inside and are left with a huge debt to pay. American boxes are self perpetuating systems that have mastered the art of abolishing authentic dissent.

When I go outside of my home all I see are boxes. I see people traveling in cars (which are a kind of box) from one box into another. American life is lived inside of boxes. Some boxes are certainly nicer and more spacious than others but still it is just a box. Now that I am 40 years of age and not wanting to live the rest of my life impoverished and outside in the cold I am finding that my instinctual will to remain outside of any box is weakening. I am tolerating more criticism and negative energy from those who live in boxes when I remind them of the box they are in. I am beginning to put up with having less room to breathe in. As much as I am moving deeper and deeper into the box I refuse to stop pointing out the box that we are all standing in. I refuse to be quiet while blind obedience actually believes that its shit does not stink. This may make my life more difficult. It may land me on a sidewalk or in some blind alley living under an actual cardboard box. But I tell myself that the good thing about these cardboard boxes that homeless individuals live in is that people can actually see and acknowledge that they are there. These cardboard boxes are some of the last authentic objects left in America.