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.

The Late Man. Post #424.

I’m late for everything. Dentist, therapy, dinner, lunch and business meetings. I am late on bill payments, bank deposits, email replies, car tune-ups, car-registration and work deadlines. My dogs go several days without food because I am late to buy their food. I am late to buy myself groceries. I am late to getting myself in better physical condition, eating a healthier diet and visiting doctors for general check ups. I am late to watering my plants, cutting my toe nails, doing my dishes, laundering my clothes and filing my car tire (which is almost flat) with air.

I am a late man.

I am late for everything. I am late to wash my car. I am late to floss my teeth. I am late to do all the things that I need to do to have better oral and sexual health. I am late to write a novel. I am late to write anything. I am late to having a career as an author. I am late to becoming the man I want to be. I am late to telling other people that I love them. I am late to getting the dried leaves and dead branches off the roof of my house (the leaves are currently causing the roof shingles to break apart).

I am a late man. Late, late, late, late.

I am late to organizing my life. I am late to keeping a daily journal. I am late to going for long walks every morning. I am late to finishing several projects I have started. I am late to listening to all the records I want to listen to. I am late to finish writing this. It is as if being late is a fundamental part of my biology. Being late seems to be imbedded in my neural operating system. A way of being that I was born into. I was late to being born. Doomed from day one. My mother says I took 15 hours longer than expected to show up. Is it true that the way in which we are born determines our fundamental behaviors for the rest of our lives? I think so.

With my therapist we discuss lateness. My therapist also struggles with being late. I have been working with her for almost a decade and I do not think that she has ever been on time to one of our sessions. This is ok because neither have I. Because my therapist is late, I can tell that she is hesitant to really talk about what it means to be late. She fears exposing too much about herself to me. I understand. She fears that I would see her as a flawed human and thus no longer trust and desire her psychological guidance. She doesn’t know that the more flawed she reveals herself to be, the more I trust and desire her psychological guidance. She is late to knowing this.

Most humans are late to everything. Everything important at least. Even the ones who are on time to appointments and meetings are late to almost everything else. They are late to knowing themselves. Late to achieving authentic human happiness. Late to love. Late to figuring out their life’s meaning. Late to learning how to appreciate the people in their lives. Late to knowing how they hurt others. Late to realizing that taking care of themselves is being kind to others. Late to not being so deeply self-absorbed. Late to knowing how to properly floss their teeth. Late to being sexually comfortable. Late to taking care of their bodies. Late to feeling comfortable in the nude when around other people. Late to being the directors of their own lives. Late to spiritual understandings. Late to not feeling bad after masturbating or having non-traditional sexual experiences. With medical improvements, most people these days are even late to their own deaths.

Everyone is late.

Knowing that everyone else is late makes me feel better about being a late man. The difference between myself and other on time people is that the ways in which I am late make my struggle to be on time, more transparent. Being late to meetings and appointments gives me away as being a person who struggles with showing up on time in every other aspect of my life. People assume that if I am late to appointments and meetings, I must be late to learning what it means to be a healthy and responsible human being. I think they are wrong. People who show up on time to meetings and appointments are just better able to hide how they are late for everything else in their life. Even though everyone struggles with being late for most things (especially the important things like love, health, flossing, guilt free sexual fulfillment, generosity, kindness, being naked and happiness) those who are on time to appointments and meetings get to appear like they “have their shit together.” Obviously, this appearance could not be further from the truth.

I am late to buying new underwear and socks. I am late to career development. I am late to committing to a career. I am late to being financially independent. I am late to having a hairstyle that I am comfortable with. I am late to being comfortable with my physical appearance. I am late to being able to be vulnerable with another human being. I am late to authentically being a nice person who is not sometimes faking being a nice person. I am late to being able to turn to a stranger who is sitting at the table next to mine while talking really loudly and eating with mouth open and being able to let her know that she is talking really loudly and being really obnoxious. I am late to accepting the conditions of my life as they are. I am late to not feeling guilty. I am late to giving before getting. I am late to inner peace. I am late to transparency. I am late to telling people what I really think. I am late to not caring what other people think. Obviously, I am late to all the important stuff.

My therapist tells me to be patient. That I have made massive improvements over the past ten years. My therapist tells me that gradually I will be more and more on time. That being on time is not something that happens on time. Being on time takes time and happens in stages. My therapist tells me that because I am working on my inner self so diligently, everything will gradually fall in line. These are the fruits of long-term psychotherapeutic labor, she tells me. I trust her. I am on time to more things in my life now than ever before. Especially love, inner peace, kindness and sexual fulfillment. Also economic independence and not caring what other people think. More and more I am on time for these things, no longer as late as I once was. But I am still late to appointments and meetings. I don’t know if I will ever be on time for these things. Maybe it is a fundamnetal genetic flaw which escapes all attempts at correction. What is important is that I try. That I keep trying to be on time. That I do not retire until there is nothing left in me but bones, blood and an empty space where my will once was. This is what my therapist tells me. This she says is how I will be an older man who is more on time in life.

No longer late.

How To Stop The Mind From Having Thoughts Of Impending Doom.

Maybe I am alone in this one, but does anyone ever feel as if their mind is playing tricks upon them? Do thoughts: negative thoughts, bleak thoughts, horrifying thoughts, terrorizing thoughts- ever enter your mind without your permission? Do they cause you to shake and tremble at times- as if the end is all to near? Do these thoughts keep you awake at night, force you to drink and keep you confined to your house on certain days? Do the thoughts prevent you from traveling, loving and experiencing joy? I could go on and on but for the sake of my own anxiety I will stop here. I will stop here because I have pointed out enough symptoms of intrusive or unwanted thoughts of impending doom.

I once knew a devout Buddhist who told me that thoughts of impending doom should be welcome to one. We should be open to them and celebrate them because they give us an understanding of our mortality, which in return allows understanding the impermanence of all phenomena. Train the mind he said- and you will be free. Years later, I have trained the mind with therapy and meditation but to little result. Thoughts of impending doom grab me in the moments that I am least prepared and send me into a mystical flight of fear that I am convinced (in the moment) I will not survive. If I have these thoughts while on a bridge- I will avoid the bridge- if I have these thoughts while in bed I will sleep on the floor. If I have thoughts of impending doom while on a walk, I will try to avoid walking. It seems as if I am becoming more knowledgeable about avoiding my life than I am about living it.

I have had thoughts of impending doom for many years now and I thought that by now I would have the answers about how to control these antagonists or even better- abolish them from the mind. But I am no where closer today than I was five years ago in understanding how to live free of such anxiety provocations. I have learned to accept my fate as a man whose mind plays tricks upon him without any concern for his wellbeing. I have come to see my mind as a mass of tissue that is committed to destroying my bodies tranquility. Just today while I was on a walk in a cemetery I suffered a sudden burst of negative thoughts that sent me to the ground where I tried to gain control of my self. I was convinced that I would die and I muttered a few words of a prayer. The thoughts passed and I returned home to do some research on the web about how to stop the mind from having thoughts of impending doom.

I came upon an essay by Martin Luther King. It was an essay about overcoming fear and it talked about courage as the only way to overcome fear. Martin talked at great length about the courage to face death as if it was upon us now. I thought about this idea of courage as being a possible palliative against the thoughts of impending doom. After all- it takes courage to suffer the fate of a silent fury that has no desire to let you be. It takes courage to stand up to your doomish thoughts and convince yourself during your darkest hour that every thing is okay- maybe. I wonder if when Martin was dying from a bullet wound he felt fear? Or maybe he was courageous in the face of death- and rather than holding on to this thing called life he was able to let go, with courage.

And this friend’s maybe the answer. Let go. Accept your fate with courage and with each thought of impending doom- let it go. Now I have never been able to do this and I would be a hypocrite if I said I could. I can’t and I won’t. Letting go is something I seem incapable of doing because I am a Jewish (Jews have a notably hard time letting go. Why this is I am uncertain). When I feel death to be near my knees rattle and I loose control of utilizing any of the wisdom that I have gained from reading, workshops or therapy. I become terrified; because I do not want to die, and I hold on with the force of a man that is unwilling to let it all go. And I wonder is this my main problem? The root of my chronic thoughts of impending doom? “ It is only in courage that the man/woman who stands rooted in fear can be free,” Martin said. “And freedom is only the ability to walk through your fear.” Maybe I’ll just avoid walking for a while.