424. Have I got a deal for you


So the new manager of my coffee shop has been making changes rapidly since he showed up less than a year ago to replace the lovely and inimitable Andrea, who moved on to work against sex trafficking. Andrea replaced Krista, who works with kids and got married. After Mitch left to lead worship services at my church. After Jake, Shelly, Jana, Sam and Emily and hundreds more barristas served their time in the coffee trenches. They come and go like Haitian presidents. Unlike Haitian presidents, however, they usually leave public service alive.

Which brings me to Nokay the newby and his almost able assistant Ong. They are housemates and friends on top of being employer/employee, which needs to be investigated soon by a federal agency before the Orange Emperor eliminates all such agencies. The boys are young and vital. Nokay the unmanager has been making executive orders as if he were a diabetic checking his blood sugar three times daily, then writing orders in a single drop of blood. Every day brings another change into the monkey cage of Coffee Nation. There is the soda case, the new table arrangements, menu changes, oaky decor overhaul, and more. But he has gone too far with his latest gimmickry.

On the wall behind the bulging soda/salad/parfait case Nokay had erected an exclusive coffee club cubby station rack of time shares for elite, by invitation only members.  I noticed it going up and slowly filling with black and blue logoed coffee mugs advertising the shop. At first I thought it was an attractive display of overpriced coffee mugs made in China. More wall art with a sales angle. Then neatly typed names began to appear below these mugs. Other mugs appeared to break up the black and blue monotony. “How nice”, I naively thought to myself, “a personal holding rack for regulars. How considerate. I may have misjudged Nokay.”

Then it got real yesterday around noon. Nokay approached me with the deal of the year as I waited for Ong to bring me a cup of delicious Tuscan Tortellini soup.

“Burrito, would you like to join the exclusive, elite, for members only coffee cubby?”

“Well, that depends on the deal.”

“Okay, let’s talk turkey.”

“As my ghost writer said in The Fart of the Deal, ‘Always negotiate from strength’.”

“Um, the terms are simple:  for $75 you can join and then drink all the coffee you want for a year at only $1.00 per cup. You get your own black and blue mug and a name tag.”

At this point his other bean lackey Grace offered to type up the paperwork and print the neat label on the cubby of my choice.

“Slow your roll, Marla Marbles. I’m working a deal here. It’s gonna be huge. I’ve talked with a lot of generals and the border patrol and they all agree with me.” Turning back to Nokay, “My price point is $50. You keep the mug.”

“I can’t do that. The mugs are worth $10 each.”

“Stop! You sell them for ten bucks, but you buy them for less than two bucks from China. The mug is off the table. I’ll provide my own Bob Dylan mug.”

Ong arrives. “How about a hug from me to sweeten the deal?”

“No hugs, no mugs, no drugs. Shut up, Ong. I’m working a deal here. It’s gonna be huge. Look at these hands. Call the generals. People love me.”

Nokay, “Here’s what I can do… $65.00 without a mug, plus your pick of old tee shirts which sell for $12.00 to folks who don’t know any better. And a free sample bag of stale coffee.”

“Again, I have several of those tee shirts. I wear them when I want to appear anonymous. They work like bug spray to repel sighted humans. Plus, I have my own custom made coffee shop tee shirt with my title and logo on it. And, under the belly line, printed upside down, is this bold statement: ‘You need to Growaset’.”

“No, sir. You go too far.”

“It’s true. I’ll wear it this Thursday.”

Ong, “How about that hug? It’s cooled off a bit to normal body temperature.”

“Ong, hug off!! Stay behind the bar or I swear I’ll hit you with this pint of Pepsi.”

Nokay, “What are your conditions?”

“I want Bob Dylan facing right on the top shelf with lightning bolts blazing out from his face.”

“Done. Grace, get on that.”

“I want an upstream payment of $1.00 from each of the previous suckers who bought into this square ponzi scheme whose cups are ranked below mine.”

“Not done. I’m not paying you to drink coffee here for free. I’m selling you an opportunity to save hundreds of dollars in your coffee budget.”

“Your ‘savings’ require me to spend money, Nokay. If you really want to save me money instead of persuading me to part with slabs of my money, you’d meet my terms and Grace could print out those lightning bolts. Why are you being so obstructionistic? I am trying to get this economy moving toward greatness again.”

“But you’re impossible. You act like you are negotiating, but all you are doing is taking. You aren’t giving anything. Can’t we meet in the middle?”

“Son, the middle is where you stick the knife, just above the navel. Read my book.”

“Just cut to the chase.”

“I have trained your barristas in how to deal with difficult customers, true?”

Reluctantly, “Yesssss.”

“At no charge, just a gentlemen’s agreement.”


“Nokay, I have blogged about your enterprise bringing in untold business to you without increasing your advertising budget.”

“But we never…”

“Silence!! I’m not finished. I have invested thousands of dollars in this business over years of faithful customerization. I haven’t tried to weaponize or monetize my loyalty… and here we are arguing over a lousy fifteen bucks. Aren’t you ashamed?”

“uhhhh, I don’t know. I’m really confused right now.”

“Okay, here’s how we will settle this:  I’m folding this five dollar bill vertically. If you can pinch it as I drop it, you win. If you can’t, I win. We’ll do this three times or until the fifteen dollars is taken care of. Deal?”

“Sure. No, it’s a trick. I’ll lose… just, okay. I’ll pay you to drink coffee for a year, plus free muffins, just stop!! My sanity is at stake here.”

“You gotta deal, son.”

“And those other fools will pay for my wall.”

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302. Forgiveness vs. Emotional Constipation


Lots of folks are stuck, or as I like to say, emotionally constipated. They can’t get past some hurt or offense, some slight or inconsideration.  So they slaver over their hurt like a dog with a meaty bone. Try to take it away and you will lose a limb. It does not make sense on first thought that someone would cling to a hurt as if it were a family heirloom. Why hoard an infection or grasp possessively  at cancer? The indignant victim claims “Justice! I want justice!!” but all they have is anger that distills into wormwood bitterness over time. One sip will blind even the man who has built up tolerance to lesser liquors.

Well, let’s look closer. When a person is hurt by someone else, there is a split second or more in which the mind determines what emotional reaction to display. Often the reaction  is limited to sadness (letting go of the hurt) or anger (gripping tightly to the offense). Sadness yields control; anger seizes it. If you visit a pre school, watch what reactions arise when one toddler takes another toddler’s toy. Tears or hitting, whimpering or screaming. But there are other combinations of emotional responses one can make, depending on maturity and modeling examples.

Now a concrete fictional example. My buddy calls and says, “Hey, I got free tickets to the Steelers game in Baltimore from my brother-in-law. December game. Wanna go?”

“Are you kidding?  Of course. What do I need to do?”

“Nothing. There are four tickets, so I’m gonna see if my son and grandson want to come along too.”

“Awesome! Keep me posted so I can keep my schedule clear.”

“Okay. Later.”

Time goes by. We chat here and there, but instead of getting clearer, it gets fuzzier. Eddie is vague and talks about if he gets the tickets instead of when. “What do you mean, IF?”

“Well,  Tom is backing up on the offer. He wants me to take his grandkids now.”

“Are they coming?”

“One of them wants to…”

“So what does that mean?”

“You’re out, man. Sorry.”


Here’s where the menu of options and combos arises.

1. Anger with some guilting attached.

“Bolsheviks, man! Couldn’t you have just not dealt me in to begin with?”

2. Victim drama and operatic exit.

“I can’t believe it! I mean, the hurt and betrayal are overwhelming. I have to go puke.”

3. Just tears and sobbing.

“No, sniffle, sniffle. How could you? No, uh, uh, uh, the hurt hurts so stinkin’ bad.”

4. Reverse energy attack.

“You spineless scumbag! You lied to me and aren’t man enough to keep your word.”

5. Pure guilt.

“After all I have done for you. I gave you blood, man. I gave you my kidney back in ’08. I want it back. NOW!!”

6. The fake with a twist of sour grapes.

“Oh, no problem. I wasn’t that interested anyway. I have a free community concert to go to that day anyway. No blood, no foul, man. It’s cool. Actually, I don’t like either team, you know. Plus, that late in the season they’ll be playing for nothing. Bunch of thugs anyway. No worries.”

7. Revenge.

“Oh I understand completely…which is why I am uninviting you to our New Year’s party. Yeah, just tear up the invitation if we send you one by mistake.”

8. Humor.

“That’s really funny, man. You got me going for a second. Pulling the rug out from under me. I mean it, you got me. A masterful ploy. Oh that’s too funny. You kill me. I get it. You punked me, Dude. Well done.”

9. Denial.

“This is not happening. It’s impossible. You are lying. I am going. I can’t hear you. Lalalalala.”

10. Passive aggression.

“So, okay. Um, but I booked a hotel room for that night, you know. Baltimore is sold out of rooms for that weekend. So, uh, if I cancel I’ll be out $160. So you’re gonna cover that, right?”

11. Self blame.

“I knew it was too good to be true. I’m a fool. No one really likes me for me. I’m a loser. I wouldn’t take myself to a pro football game either. I’m a waste of time and skin.”


Image result for psycho face  pictures

Not one of these reactions is a very healthy way out of the situation. Each of these options will keep the actor stuck in a place of bitterness and repetition rather than a healthy resolution. So I offer forgiveness as the preferred response to hurts.

The uninvited guy played by me… “Well, thanks for telling me. I can see it was hard for you.”

Ticket withholder buddy, “Yeah, I was dreading this scene. I’ve gone over it a hundred times and could not find a respectful way to tell you. I’m just sorry, man.”

“Okay, it really sucks. I was excited and told everyone I was going, you know, I really played it up.”

“Oh, no. Look, just tell them I blew it. It’s on me not you.”

” It’s not really. You got stuck in the middle. I’ve been in binds like that before. Remember that painting job I got into where the paint never hardened?”

“Yeah, what a nightmare!”

“It was my painting Vietnam. I got hung out to dry and abandoned by the paint guys. They could have resolved the situation easily, but they chose to lie to me. Thanks for not lying to me.”

“Whew. Are you pissed at me?”

“No. I’m disappointed and a little embarrassed, but I’m not angry with you. You are the messenger, Eddie. You are my friend. That’s more important than a stupid maybe awesome football game.”

“Thanks for handling this so graciously. I felt so stupid and rude. I told Tom I wasn’t going to the game.”

“No, don’t do that for me.”

“It’s not about you. I don’t like getting jerked around either.”

“So you’re really not going?”


“Can I have your ticket?”  (Followed by edgy laughter.)

“You suck, man, but you’re my buddy. Thanks.”

211. Border lines

 antique black frame isolated - stock photo

Like a picture frame, a border line holds an edge and lends definition to something, maybe a garden bed or a basketball court. The line highlights where something ends and something else begins. In the therapy business  borderlines are personality disorders of the first order. The term refers to an imaginary line between psychosis and neurosis. It’s a sanity stripe that some folks dance on all their lives… one foot taps out a rhythm on the scales of depression and anxiety while the other foot occasionally stomps on wild, scorpion delusions.  It’s an awful mix of pathologies that usually results in erratic and fragile folks who are hard to spend any time with, who at the same time are desperately clingy and needy and fear abandonment. Their gasping struggle to hold on to others results in being abandoned over and over again. For them impulsivity is irresistible. Flailing in the deep end of Responsibility’s pool, they drown their rescuers like mythical sirens. Suicidal thinking and attempts go with that awful fence post place where borderlines sit painfully on broken glass, chewing strands of barbed wire licorice. Broken relationships and deaths are hard for the average person to endure, but for the borderline these are exquisitely excruciating exercises in existence. Imagine a swamp that rests on top of a volcano that sits on the San Andreas fault during monsoon mudslide season. The potential for bad things to erupt and splatter is very high.

I’ve read that borderlines are terminal two year olds in their temperament and folks who have no skin– only nerve endings. Everything hurts… the wind, the news, the silence, the drama, the weather, and especially boredom. I’ve also had limited experience with a few. Whew!! Exhausting. And you may be thinking “Oh, sure. How much harder can they be?”  Well, if you’ve ever been in a plane where the oxygen masks deployed, it’s like being in that crisis mode more often than not. You don’t want to get on such a fragile crazy plane again. It’s easy to become a hostage of a terminally flailing victim. Black holes in the social universe that suck up resources and potential disappears… the Bermuda Triangle of mental health… fear, rage, shame, guilt, and chaos swirl there.

BPD’s are forever bored and crave excitement the way that television executives crave market share….”Look at me now, and now, and how about now?” Attention is their oxygen. Endless selfies and soulful despairings attach to their ever changing FB pages. Theirs is the most exceptional life struggle of all time, dontcha know? It’s no surprise that BPD’s are overrepresented in the performing arts and sports and politics where praise and adulation are part of the payment system. And that would make sense because of the intense attention that comes to performers, athletes and politicians. The problem arises when the curtain descends. How on earth is the BPD affirmation junkie gonna get his/her fix in an empty theater, studio or stadium? Oh, I know, go stir up some drama– have a hit of this or spend that or have an affair with someone else’s spouse. And do it now because patience is no virtue in the BPD world. It’s just someone denying an irresistible treat that is deserved somehow.

Do not attempt to be rational with a border line. Their landscape is one of intense superhighway emotions without logical rest stops built in. In fact, there are no off ramps, only breakdown lanes for runaway vehicles. Boundaries do not exist in BPD land: time, privacy, private property, legal rights, social appropriateness, personal space, etc. are always negotiable items. And they promise they’ll never call in the middle of the night again or beg for money or sex or time. Rules, structure, discipline, truth, etc. are all wiggly concepts that can be manipulated by their unrelenting breathless neediness.

“They love without measure those whom they will soon hate without reason.” Thomas Sydenham.
Fallen angels, maybe. Passionate without limits…. Destruction seems inevitable, and there is a higher suicide rate for BPD’s, 8-10%, to be sure. How do you treat these shape shifters with compassion and integrity? I’ve been to personality disorders workshops before and heard that it can be done successfully. But it takes twice a week sessions for at least two to four years. That’s a lot of investment on both sides of the couch. Who has that kind of patience/ time/ money/ or insurance? How do you do therapy with an enraged jealous polar bear at the equator? Always it’s life at the extremes.
The poster girls of BPD do/did have the resources, but I’m not sure that they made it through unscathed if at all. Here are the top seven celebrities who supposedly have/had BPD–Angelina Jolie, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, Princess Diana, and Marilyn Monroe.  Maybe you noticed that three of these ladies met untimely deaths. Swirling tornadoes of hot and cold emotions roiling across the flat lands level anyone and anything that opposes them. Succubi.
 Truly, it’s hard to comprehend such things unless you have experienced them firsthand. And then, since they won’t obey boundaries, you double down on yours, trying to teach them patience or just ignore their drama. Most of the time it is just drama, over blown and exaggerated, full of adrenaline. But there is always the suicide cloud that floats in the background, the ultimate trump card that holds folks hostage. “Don’t abandon me like all the rest have!” Fair? Not at all, but it’s one of the few tricks the borderline knows, emotional extortion. Problem solving interpersonally is not a strong suit.
So we carry them like a pie that didn’t quite bake correctly and we call it cobbler, served in a bowl. We supply the shape for the collapsed boundaries of self. Maybe there never were boundaries to begin with. I don’t know. You and I look in the mirror and see ourselves each morning; borderlines see no one looking back at them; that’s all.