389. Bermuda High

Joel is off to Bermuda with the annual Veiled Bankers’ United Trust Fund Exchequer Diddlification Conference. VBUTFEDC abbreviated. Some just call it BUTFED; either way it needs to be deloused.  You have likely never heard of these tweedy, greedy money minders from small towns and medium size cities.  Once a year they meet secretly off shore to set mortgage and credit card rates at extortionist levels for poor schmucks like you and me and Bernie Sanders behind a tree to pay.

Sometimes called the Presbyterian Mafia by those in the know, these guys and gals have a lot of pull. Their weapon of choice is paper overloaded with obfuscation. They like to call it gravitas. I call it Enlarged Buttocks Syndrome. In German it’s pronounce BeegAhhhss, with a strong accent on the second syllable.

This year Elton John is going to be entertaining the money stormtroopers with his greatest, greatest hits… rumored to be getting $100,000 per song. He will perform from the deck of his yacht, anchored in international waters. He’s scheduled to sing a set of 15, under the assumed name of John Elton so that he can’t be taxed anywhere. (Don’t tell anyone, okay?) Encores are $150,000 each, according to my sources. Expect “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright” to bring the inebriated bankers off their BEEGAHHHSSES onto their etherized BEEGFEETS. Such an epic event must be held in international waters due to liability and corporate secrecy concerns also. If anyone ever found out how much money these carpetbaggers abscond with, the guillotine would be reinstituted and heads would roll like… well, like never. Still, I think a pocket sized guillotine could be great for trimming nails and sharpening pencils. Or a cheese stick cutter trinket that says, “I cut the Gouda in Bermuda”.

I am not envious, not much anyway. Okay, a little. I did call in a favor from my buddies at Andrews Air Force Base to scramble a couple of F 16s to shoot down any plane resembling VBUTFEDC’s charter, but I was a week premature in the catastrophication intercept. Captain Carl Wilco reported that his men sent a Fed Ex cargo jet into the Bermuda Triangle graveyard in flames. Pity. I have no more favors to use. Call it research without a riscence.

Reminds me of one of Elton’s songs, “Daniel” about a blind guy flying to Spain. (I don’t think he was the pilot.) His younger brother is the dramatic voice singing the song. I don’t think Elton will sing that one to the bankers. Too somber. You don’t want salty tears diluting your mojito gravitas. However, if you recall the love affair between Joel and Sheila the mule from the Grand Canyon post, I offer the following mash up with Sheila at the microphone… dim lights, heavy rouge and dark lipstick, sultry sway…

“Joel is travelling tonight at high altituda
I can see the red tail lights heading for Bermuda
Oh and I can see Joel, he’s waving goodbye
God it looks like Joel, must be the clouds in my eyes
They say Bermuda’s pretty though I’ve never been
Well Joel says it’s the best place that he’s ever seen
Oh and he should know, he’s been there enough
Lord I miss Joel, oh I miss him so much”
[Braying desperately, one hoof held against her forehead, three stomping in pain]
“Joel my muleboy you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the saddlesores that won’t heal
You hide your eyes, but you see more than I
Joel, you’re a star in the face of the sky”
[mule shuffle conga line with Cinco de Mayo sombreros bouncing]
 
“Joel is travelling at high altituda
I can see the red tail lights heading for Bermuda
Oh and I can see Joel waving goodbye
God it looks like Joel, must be the clouds in my eyes”
I do expect a VBUTFEDC endorsed version of “Bennie and the Jets” with Joel gassing out a lover’s reply to Sheila with Elton at the mic, substituting Sheila for Bennie and Steps for Jets. Something like this…
“Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight’s hitting something
That’s been known to change the weather
We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You’re gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound
Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Uh but they’re so spaced out, Sh- She- Sheila and the Steps
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Sheila she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mulehair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
Sh-Sh- Sheila and the Steps
Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they’re blinded
But Sheila makes them ageless
We shall survive, let us pour ourselves a long….
Where we fight our clients out in the streets
To find who’s right and who’s wrong
Oh Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Uh but they’re so spaced out, Sh- Sh- Sheila and the Steps…”
Yep, I wish I could be there rockin’ the crocodile rock around the clock with Mr. Spock. But I’m back in Turtle Town drinking coffee, big shock, on a treadmill dock of routine with only one sock. See what I mean? If only I could roll like Senor Joel, Mr. Jellyroll. Holy Moly. Sholy he is the King of Whackamoley. I’d quit my dream of Olympic goalie, get totally married to Angelina Jolie. Never need to call the police on me.
But I digress. I need to  close with another Elton song for Trinitarian balance. Hmmm, wait, could it be? No. Is it Sheila bursting out of the waves, professing her undying love of her pale, faithless rider?
“I can’t light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I’m growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life
“Too late to save myself from falling
I took a chance and changed your way of life
But you misread my meaning when I met you
Closed the door and left me blinded by the light
“Don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I see
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me
“I can’t find the right romantic line
But see me once and see the way I feel
Don’t discard me just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal”
And now it’s time to say goodbye to Joel and all his friends, frolicking free on a joyous junket, where the party never ends.
 Hakuna matata, my friend.

348. Broken Vessel

While sitting with a client a week after her suicide attempt, I was struck by her brokenness.

A week before she had called to say she could not wait for our first session at the agency where I was working in the 90’s.  She was drunk and decided to swallow the fifty or so anti-depressants she had left in her prescription. It was an odd emergency cancellation call.

“I won’t  be able to make our schsleduled appointment cuz I’m gonna kill myschelf.”

“Okay. Could you do me a favor before you kill yourself?”

“Sschure.”

“Would you unlock your front door?”

“Okay. Anything elsssh I can do for you?”

“Nope. Just thanks for calling. That was super nice of you.”

“Oh Ssshertainly. Bye bye.”

I immediately called 911 and canceled the appointment I was in the middle of. Yeah, I had just met a lady with a circus of diagnoses in person and this craziness on the phone had exploded. “I gotta go, ma’am. It’s an emergency. I know we just met, but …”

 I met her as the medics carried her to the ambulance.  “Who the hell are you?” she slurred as we passed. I happened to look down and see her pathetic, impossibly childish, yellow suicide sticky note on the floor of her apartment building’s lobby.  It said, “My parents never loved me.”

Later at the hospital she had her stomach pumped and some crisis counseling. “I’m the guy on the phone. I’d still like to meet with you after your get out of here. Is that okay?”

As I listened during our first scheduled session, I visualized her as a ceramic vessel that had been shattered long ago.  I felt like I was figuratively “picking up the pieces”, as if I were a psychological archeologist.  I recalled the satisfactions I had derived from rebuilding broken furniture, kids’ toys, my old cars, etc.  I also sensed a fertile symbol here and a very powerful emotional image to manipulate.  I floated the broken vessel image with “Sherry”.  She accepted it as accurate.

“Yeah, my life is a shattered mess with lots of missing pieces.”

Before our next session I located a hammer and several old coffee cups, two plastic grocery bags and a tube of Elmer’s glue.  During this session I asked “Sherry” to pick a cup she most identified with.  She selected one with a floral pattern and a few minor chips.  I asked her to explain how she was like this vessel.  She mentioned its usefulness, attractiveness and sturdiness.

As the session progressed, she seemed to hold the cup with unconscious affection.

After a while I asked “Sherry” to recall the major traumas in her life.  She did so, noting that most had been abuse suffered at the hands of men in her life.  I then asked my client to wrap the cup in the plastic bags to guarantee we could retain all the pieces.  Giving her the hammer, I instructed “Sherry” to voice the three biggest hurts she had experienced as she pounded the cup in the bags.  As she did so, the force of her blows increased with each hit.  I believe she would have turned the cup to powder if I had not set limits.

My client noted an immediate emotional release; however, she appeared overwhelmed at the task ahead of her.  I asked her to open the bag and inspect the pieces.  “That looks like I feel”, she observed, “ a broken mess”.  Then I gave her the glue and asked her to rebuild the cup.   “The glue is therapy”, I observed. She quickly gave excuses why she could not comply.  I told her she might not ever want to complete the task, and that she could stop at any point in the process.

At our next session the mug was again in one piece and my client had several remarkable lessons to relate about how she rebuilt the cup.

“I started with the big pieces, then worked from the bottom to the top.  I had to wait between gluings to allow the first pieces to solidify. You can’t rush some of the mends.”

“I had to look for patterns to follow; the flower prints helped. So did the border.”

“I had to give up the notion of a perfect rebuild since some of the cup was powder now. I guess the first blow is likely gonna be a powder blast.”

“I was proud of myself.  I thought ‘if I can rebuild this shattered cup, I can do this therapy thing too.’”

“I want to keep this as a reminder of where I started. I mean, I won’t be drinking coffee out of it, but I can put flowers in it on my mantel.”

“Sherry” went on to question some old assumptions and behaviors, and worked on changing her view of herself.  Oddly enough, her suicide attempt was triggered by a promotion at work. She assumed that she would make a mess of the increased responsibilities and found out as a fraud. She had been alcoholic and self-destructive, beating life to the punch.  Ironically, or so it seems to me, the hammer of destruction had truly been in her hand over the past few years.  Visualizing this truth seemed to be the beginning of the healing process.

On other occasions I have used this technique with traumatized clients.  As far as I can tell, each application has been very satisfying and growth-enhancing for the client.  On one occasion the client chose not to hammer her marriage cup symbol.  In another case a child of abuse chose not to fully rebuild the cup she symbolized as her abuser, leaving several pieces unglued that could have easily been reintegrated. There is a certain beauty in repaired brokenness, don’t you think?

Jeremiah 30:17 says, “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds”, says the Lord. “For you are called an outcast, ‘Jerusalem for whom no one cares'”. And so it goes, back to unity and wholeness and harmony.

 

 

262. Coffee, Constitution and commandments

Despite the utopian nature of the Coffee Summit and the wonderful cacophonous harmony of disunity that has persisted for the past five years, it is time for some tweaking of the original charter. The genuine Magna Carta napkin has been misplaced, possibly in a washing machine. I thought it was in my old wallet, but when I switched to a new wallet at Christmas, aghast! The most important napkin in Christendom was gone!! It was an agreement among unemployed giants of our time inked out during one of the bleakest periods in our collective history. Like Washington at Trenton or Meade at Gettysburg, the future of the nation was at stake as Tim the Silver Back and Chuckles and I stood in a wooden canoe crossing the Conococheague. (It was shallow there and narrow. Okay, we just walked across on a June morning, but it was powerfully symbolic.) And rather than wave a blank napkin of surrender, we (really I) wrote down on one powerful 3″ x  3″ square eternal truths to live by. And I-uh-I seem to have lost it.

I must, however, persevere and recall as much as I can of the Constitution of Coffee Nation before it deteriorates in the landfill of wasted time and wasted minds. First of all, it was decided by voice vote that we would meet Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. unless otherwise directed by the Supreme Imperial Leader, which I decided was me. For an entire college semester, however, we met on Fridays at 8:30 due to a teaching commitment I had made. It was Abnormal Psychology. Shocker. I drew heavily on my interactions with the primates at Coffee Nation for the class I taught. (Sotto voce) “Here are lowland gorilla men grazing at a coffee shop. The one on the bottom is thought to be a direct link to the Himalayan Yeti. Note his ululating calls… ‘Ugggguggggllll. Uggggugggglll’. We call him Chuckles. The one on the top is from Allentown.  His call resembles human speech… approximating the expression of pleasant surprise…’That’s so coooool’. ” He’s Timmy.

It was simple then… Two articles: No politics. No religion. Bodily noises were permissible and continue to be.  Mild violence is encouraged but not required. No outside food or drink is permitted, however. It is not forbidden so much as ridiculed. Brother Lance brought a purple lady’s coffee travel mug once. ONCE. It was a long day for him. But I am getting far ahead of the Nation’s coffee creamer thimble of tears.

We grew one unemployed and undeserving man at a time. Matt the creeper tried to deny his predilections while only reinforcing our beliefs. He ranted on about astral physics while staring at women’s physiques. He was sanctioned. Low octane Walt rolled along for a while. He didn’t even drink coffee. However, we puttered along through his successful chemo treatments. Truly, there are far more departed Nation brothers than active ones. Rob the candy and ice cruncher moved on. Josh the armed American bull rider came faithfully but got a job and married into the System. He was always good for NRA propaganda and outrageous right wing conspiracies from Fox News Nation. “Did you know more people were killed by water heaters last year than by guns?” Many times he was sanctioned for offending Our second amendment– no politics– and for being downright naïve.

The artist formerly known as Egginator was a faithful attendee and chess opponent, but the coffee was too strong for him and he fled back to his Motherland. Ron 1 used to keep the bar up with his aging frame, while chatting amiably to the pretty young barrista-ettes. We talked for  a while about him putting me into his will, but he was hung up on the fact that I was older than he was. “You could die first, Ron. You need to be prepared.” He could not see the logic in my argument despite his End Timer tendencies.

Chuck the Cowboy came for a few visits. He was too busy, though, and could not take the constant demand for sluggishness by the group. He had to rope a calf or canter about. This is the existential problem when it comes to do’ers versus be’ers. Coffee Nation is all about being and is on record against doing. Anything! Once Lance suggested a purpose for our aimless crew. He was severely sanctioned. “Ignore that voice of doooty. We are here merely to be or not to be. Doing is not in our Declaration of Indolence. Heel!”  Dave dropped in for chess a few times and disappeared into that blind alley of upper mobility like a character from a Springsteen song.  We of coffee nation curse the cruel JOBS that have decimated our ranks. As the chart below illustrates, happiness comes from set points, which means inertia. Studies in the UK have determined that working toward specific goals actually hampers perceived levels of happiness in mental patients and sluggards. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Rob 2 affiliated with us for a few weeks. He was between financial gigs but graced us with his starched white shirt appearance for a while. Gigilo Gene took some offense to Rob’s eccentric white collar mojo.  D.J. helped mediate that fraternal fracas before fists flew. His MP background has come in handy a time or two in disciplining Big Steve, perhaps the most faithful National among us. Though fully employed by an international corporation, Steve routinely goes in late on Thursdays. When he dies we will bury him with full Nation honors as outlined in a previous post. (240. Time is Short)

And then there was Gary aka Jerry who tried after a brief internship to organize a coup d’état. What saved the Imperial Leader for Life’s life was the fact that no one speaks French, and therefore they thought Jerry was coughing while sneezing. “Make up your mind, Dude. Either cough or sneeze.” He was sentenced to a North Korean firing squad in Hagerstown. Actually we tapped Josh and his personal arsenal to shoot a precise outline of .17 caliber bullets around Jerry to warn him against insurrection. He was sentenced instead to a lifetime of servitude under a different dictator.

Oh the humanity!