Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: therapy (page 3 of 5)

Say Hello to Brenda, My Therapist


Hi, Brenda.   If it is Tuesday afternoon, this means that we are just sitting down at your computer and looking at my blog together for the first time.   This was the idea, right?  That you, as my therapist, might better understand me by exploring the world of my writing online. 

(Say hello to Brenda)

Subjects to discuss:  the ups and downs of my relationship with Sophia, being passive/being assertive, being co-dependent, my insecurity and fear of success, and my neurotic need to be people-pleasing.

I have plenty of posts on all of these subjects.

And if you start reading my archives, I want to apologize for the one post a few months ago where I said that an hour therapy session being only fifty minutes was a major rip-off.   I understand that you use those extra ten minutes to write notes (or catch the end of Oprah). 

That was a joke.   I wasn’t being passive-aggressive.   Really.   You’re great.  

Rambling Post to Scare Off New Readers

Sophia had a little “discussion” with me this morning about my constant pooh-poohing of advertising, calling it immature.  “We could always use another hundred dollars to help pay for something like our over-priced health insurance.  It’s not like we’re wealthy people who would refuse money.”  She made me feel a bit ashamed for being such a stickler, like I’m a pampered baby.   I should talk to my therapist about this.  I think this advertising issue reflects on other parts of my life where I fear “selling out,” — where I would rather feel good about my superiority than actually make good money for the family.

Does anyone really think less of Dooce for having ads?  Of course, adding ads to blogs undercuts the whole equality of the blogosphere in my mind.  But the box has already been open for a long time.  And who really cares?  Isn’t each of us here to grab as much as he can get for his family, so they can live the best possible life?  Maybe the whole premise of this Great Interview Experiment is a farce.  Maybe we’re not all somebodys.  If I can make more money than the next guy, I can be a “bigger” somebody!  Isn’t that how most of  people think, anyway?   There is always someone more of a somebody than me!  I shouldn’t be saying we are all somebodies.  Why create a myth?  I should be telling you that I am BETTER than you.  Then you will look towards me for advice, and maybe even pay me one day for the book I will write, giving you more advice.  I should ask people to vote for me as the Best Blogitizer!  I could promote myself and make more money on the blog.  Is that what all these Problogger websites advise us to do?  Isn’t Blogher partly about learning how to monetize your blog?  I’m wondering if other bloggers will actually LIKE me and RESPECT me MORE if I told them that I just bought a new car off of the earnings from my blog?  A hybrid, of course, just to impress the eco-babes.

Anyway, just rambling.

Next Week in Therapy


I’m sitting across from Brenda, my therapist. 

Therapist:  So, how did you feel about i?

Neil:  I was a little upset at her.

Therapist:  So what did you do?

Neil:  I withdrew.  I went into my room and wrote.  That made me feel better.  I think I do that too much.  I did that as a kid a lot.  I was an only child.  I always felt most comfortable just sitting around writing something.

Therapist:  What did you write last night?

Neil:  I wrote a silly blog post titled “If I Was Married to Hellga of American Gladiators.”

Therapist:  Hmm…

Neil:  Although no one reading it would know, I was probably venting about Sophia…

Therapist:  So, writing this blog is an important outlet for you.

Neil:  I suppose so.

Therapist:  Maybe it is a form of therapy for you.  A way for you to think about things.  What do you mostly write about?

Neil:  All different things.  Mostly funny things.  About Sophia.  I’ve even written about you. I mean not real stuff.  Well, sort of real.  I use different names for you, and your image has changed as time has gone on.  In the beginning, I made you into a hot babe therapist.  Once I wrote about being distracted because your legs were showing. 

Therapist:  Really?

Neil:  Yeah.  Silly stuff.  But you do have nice legs.  Jesus, I can’t believe I’m telling my therapist that she has nice legs.  Sorry.

Therapist:  It’s OK.

Neil:  But I’ve also written more serious stuff about therapy, like that I’m not an “adult” yet.

Therapist:  I’ve never done this with another client, but your blog seems a large part of your life.  Your fantasy life.  Do you think it would be a good idea if I read your blog?

Neil:  Oh, I was under the assumption that you had been reading it.  I even wrote about that.

Therapist:  No, I wouldn’t read it unless you asked me too.  Do you want me to?

Neil:  Sure.  Why not?

Therapist:  I don’t know too much about blogs?  How do people find you? 

Neil:  It’s sort of complicated.

Therapist:  Do a lot of people come to the blog?

Neil:  Well, it depends.  Right now I have a lot of people coming because I’m hosting this interview thing where people interview each other, but I have no idea how many of them are actually READING aything I write.

Therapist:  Let’s make next week a special one.  We’ll sit by the computer together and you’ll show me some of what you write on your blog.  I want you to show me things that can best help me understand you better.  Let’s make your blog part of therapy, since it seems to already be like that.  Or print out five posts that you want me to read.

Neil:  OK, but you DO realize I’m going to write about this on my blog tonight?

Therapist:  I have no doubt.

Man vs. Boy


Later today, I’ll be walking into therapy with my head held high.   Yesterday, I took an important step towards being assertive.   I spoke up for myself.  I stood my ground, despite the aggressiveness of my opponent.

It all started when I entered my local coffee shop, a business named Hawaii Coffee or Aloha Coffee — I’m not entirely sure, because although the coffee shop has been opened for a year and a half, they still haven’t placed a sign outside.  Inside, the walls are brightly decorated with photos of surfers and real ukuleles, all there to remind you that the shop is Hawaiian-themed.  It is a decent-looking place, but they should have saved some of the money they spent on the kitschy ukuleles, and bought a sign instead.

The “Hawaiian” coffee shop have several different types of coffee, including their “famous” Hawaiian Kona coffee which, ironically, is their worst-tasting coffee.  But there are free re-fills and free wi-fi, so I can’t complain too much.

Usually the shop is empty when I come in, but today it was packed — with mothers and kids.  It was Martin Luther King Day, so the schools were closed, and all the mothers were schlepping their kids around as they did their shopping.  All the tables were already taken.  The only available seating was in the corner — two cushioned chairs with a large table in front.  An eleven year old boy was kneeling in front of the table, playing with a toy construction set, similar to the Erector Set I had when I was a boy.   There were dozens of metal pieces strewn all over the table.  His mother was seated elsewhere, gossiping with her friends.

I bought a cup of coffee and headed over to the chairs.

“Are you using this chair?” I asked the Kid, smiling at him.

“Yes,” he quickly answered.

I made note that he was kneeling on the floor.

“How about this other chair?”  I asked.

“I need that chair, too.”

“Why’s that?”

“I need a lot of SPACE!” he announced.  He went back to playing with his metal, a Donald Trump in the making.  He smashed the pieces together as if he was building a Transformer.

“Screw it,” I said to myself, and decided to go outside.  I would drink my coffee while sitting on top of my car.  Then I stopped.  What the hell was I doing?  This was an eleven year old kid!  I retraced my steps back to the Kid.  I leaned down to face him.

“You’re not using these chairs right now, and you can’t use both of them, so I’m going to take one of them, OK?”

I probably shouldn’t have asked his permission because it just made him more adamant.

“I need the space!”

Let me remind you that during this entire exchange, his mother didn’t even look over once.

“You can have your space,” I told the annoying Kid.  “But I’m going to take this empty chair and move it over HERE, so I can sit.”


I slid the chair several feet away from the kid.   I sat and enjoyed my coffee.  The Kid went back to destroying his metallic city.  The mother kept on gabbing.

I was proud of myself.  I didn’t back down against my young, but worthy, nemesis.

It was a moment to remember.

Now, who’s going to take me on next?!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   Why I Write

More on the Last Post


Therapy was very emotional this week.  I didn’t cry, but I almost did. We weren’t even talking about anything significant.  I was explaining to her about some writing project.  I was having some trouble with the plot. It was difficult to concentrate in the therapist’s office.  She was wearing a pretty dress, and she had sexy legs, and I felt almost too comfortable sitting calmly with a centered human being who was listening to me and was saying that it was OK for me to feel anxious about certain things.  It all felt very intimate and spiritual, and I had quick glimpses in my mind of taking the therapist on the couch, but in a nice, loving way, to thank her for being so kind.  I know I write these sex thoughts too much on this blog, but I’m only trying to be honest here.  These were not sordid thoughts.  These were nice and innocent thoughts.

I took a breath and almost cried.

“What are you thinking?”

“I just feel emotional.”

“Emotional, in what way?”

“I can’t explain it. I feel something overwhelming, but I don’t know what it is.  But it also makes me laugh, because I’m sitting in a therapist’s office, and I’ve seen this movie so many times, and I’m stepping away from myself and watching this scene, knowing that if this was a bad movie, I would break down now and remember how my mother used to hit me with metal hangers.”

“Did something ever happen with your mother?”

I laughed.

“Nah.  Those metal hangers were precious in our house for hanging up clothes.  But I had my mother on the phone before as I was driving to the supermarket, and I said I would call her back in two minutes, and that was four hours ago.  I need to remember to call her back.”

(sorry, Mom. I’ll call you tomorrow)

QUICK CUT to new topic:

I had no intention to write about therapy.  I wanted to discuss my last post.  I read it over and it seemed too jokey.  There was a reason for posting it, which has nothing to do with Blog Awards, even though I titled it Blog Awards.  It has to do with insecurity, something we all have in differing degrees.

The seeds to the post grew from an email I received a month ago.  I never responded to it, because I wasn’t sure how to answer, but I kept the message on a notepad on my desktop, waiting for a inspirational way to reply.

Here it is.   I hope the author doesn’t mind.

Good morning! Neil!

How are you?

I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for the past year – and I was delighted that you had my link on your blogroll…. but suddenly it’s not there anymore? Is there some reason why?

I had your link a while ago… and then moved it to another category. After I realized I was replaced by other fancier blogs on your blogroll… I guess I was jealous and removed yours as well… I want to apologize for acting so juvenile. I would greatly appreciate a critique of how my blog had failed to engage you. Please be gentle.

It would be easy to chuckle at the silliness of this writer’s email, but, in all honesty, I find this person brave for sending it to me.   At first I did laugh.  A critique?  Fancier blogs?  Does this writer actually think that I have a game plan here on Citizen of the Month?

Surprisingly, the email moved me.  It makes me feel emotional, much as I did in the therapist’s office — except for the sexy legs part, of course. We’re all so insecure about so many unimportant things. I know I can be.   Maybe not so much about blogging, but certainly with other parts of my life.

I’ll try to be more thoughtful of the feelings of others.

My Wife is a Midget


Today’s blog post was nixed by Sophia. She thought it was too personal. I’m respectful of that. She is absolutely amazing. She “allows” me to write pretty much anything I want. Of course, being a tinge passive-aggressive, I wanted to make sure that my artistic freedom was still intact.

Sophia: You need to check with me first before you write anything personal about ME.

Neil: Do you mean WRITE or PUBLISH?

Sophia: Write.

Neil: Well, I appreciate what you are saying, and I respect it, but you can’t tell me WHAT not to write. I can write anything I want about you.

Sophia: No, you can’t.

Neil: Yes, I can. I just can’t PUBLISH it. But I can write it.

Sophia: Well, I don’t want you to write it.

Neil: Sorry. I’m in therapy now. I know my rights. If I want to write that you are, say — a midget, I can write it. As long as I don’t show it to anyone.

Sophia: But I’m not a midget.  I’m not even short.  You can’t write it.

Neil: I can write it. Even if you aren’t.

Sophia: I’ll sue you.

Neil: You can’t sue me for writing it. You can sue me for publishing it. But I can write, “Sophia’s a midget” all day long if I want — a thousand times in my own Microsoft Word — and you can’t do anything about it.

Sophia: How about this?

Sophia hits me on the head with the newspaper. Conversation over.

P.S.. Just for the record, Sophia isn’t a midget, but I have no problem saying it in the privacy of my own home — when Sophia isn’t here.

Becoming an Adult

I never rebelled against my parents, and that’s unhealthy. They were always there for me. I’m still a child in many ways. (sorry, Mom — not your fault) Now THAT’S unhealthy. It is frustrating to me. It is frustrating to Sophia. I need to be more of an adult.

This is what I talked about with Esther, my therapist, during therapy session #8. This was an important session. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I’m always talking masculinity and “male-ness,” as if this was an issue in my life because I didn’t watch football. Now, I’m thinking I was looking in the wrong place. Who the f**k cares? The question for me isn’t, “What should a MAN be like?” It should be, “What should an ADULT be like?”

During the session (still only 50 minutes!), I found myself feeling very emotional, partly out of shame and partly out of relief. I would have never verbalized these ideas on my own. My self-image is quite different. I’ve always thought of myself as too adult, even as a child — but I think I’ve been fooling myself. I think I was just afraid of doing things and testing myself, and interpreted this as “mature” and “adult.”

These are a couple of ways I can improve my adult mindset —

1) Keep to commitments.

2) Stop feeling the urge to please everyone.

3) Learn to accept adult reality.

These are not just issues for men, but men and women. These are difficult challenges, so I’m going to take baby steps by starting the process first in my blogging life.

1) Keep to commitments.

I have a commitment as a blogger. I enjoy blogging. It is creative. Part of this commitment is participating and reading your blogs. Lately, I’ve been distracted by dumb online applications like Facebook, just because “everyone else is doing it.” There are only so many hours in a day. Wouldn’t you rather I read your blog than play scrabble or snog you with some second rate add-on?

I’m dumping Facebook by the end of the week.

2) Stop feeling the urge to please everyone.

I’ve always hated blogrolls that only list the same ten Dooce-level bloggers. These are the same people who needed to have a designer’s name on the back of their jeans in high school. I love the fact that I add a new blogger to my “blog crushes” every single day. Unfortunately, the list is approaching 300 names. I can’t keep up with everyone. Why try? Why feel guilty? An adult doesn’t need to please everyone all the time.

This week, I’m deleting EVERYONE from the list, and starting from scratch. Look at the positive side — this will give you a another chance to be my blog crush! If I didn’t put you on, don’t take it personally. Emailing me and kissing up always helps.

3) Learn to accept adult reality.

I’m going to be honest. I think I am cooler than most of you. Why? Because I don’t have advertising on my blog. That’s right. Suck it up. This might seem like a dumb blog to you, but I still view myself like a sophomore in college wearing all black who deems himself an “artist” and will never sell his art to the highest bidder. Of course, this attitude is disastrous in real life. Why do I still idolize someone like Van Gogh, living in a seedy rat-infested flat, slowing going insane, and cutting off my ear? Of course, Sophia will laugh because I am afraid of ants, but this a romantic image — not reality. It is a childish image. Immature. It’s OK to have my Penis talk on my blog, but I cringe at the thought of him hawking Starbucks new “Holiday Latte.”

I’ve refused some jobs because of this attitude. Now can you see another reason Sophia wants to kick me out?

Several of you have tried to hook me up with blogads and blogher, but I always seem to “forget” to do it. Sophia wonders what’s so wrong with making two hundred or so bucks by selling ads. Only a child (or someone very rich) says no to money!

This is not one of those “Woe is me. I’m going to add advertising” posts. I should so it — not only for the money, but because it is the adult thing to do.

P.S. — I’m going to need a “Therapy” category soon, won’t I?

Six (Or Another Reason I’m in Therapy)


Last night, I awoke from a dream at 3AM.  I couldn’t fall back asleep because my mind was working overtime, trying to decipher one of mankind’s greatest secret since the Celestine Prophecy:

How many women can one man make love to at one time?

As someone who took AP Calculus in high school, I used my math skills to come upon the number SIX:  a man can — with no tools other than his body — make love to six women at once — with his penis, his mouth, his right hand, his left hand, his right foot, and his left foot.    This seems to be the man’s physical limit, unless he has some unusual appendage, like a third hand. 

As if wasting my time on this scenario wsn’t crazy enough, I spent another hour drawing “mathematical charts” and “architectural blueprints” to verify this important discovery to myself.

Self-Help Books


Today, Sophia and I sat in Borders for half the day, reading self-help books. I was determined to find a book that described me and my “problems” in psychological terms. After my two months of therapy, I’m fully convinced I need this help, and I want to understand myself better. I almost feel as if I’ve been blind to parts of my own personality. I am neurotic, but just saying “neurotic” is too vague for me. I want a stronger sense of the problem. I’m envious of you bloggers who have something specific, like ADHD. That is a “sturdy” psychological problem. If I met you for the first time, I could shake your hand and you could look me in the eye and say, “My name is Jack and I have ADHD.” It’s just not the same to answer, “Hi, I’m Neil. I’m neurotic, but I’m not exactly sure what that means or what exactly I’m neurotic about.”

The first book I read at Borders was on procrastination. I certainly procrastinate on my writing, but not with everything. Other times, I am very much on the ball. (Editor’s note: I’d like to see that ball — Sophia) I can’t honestly say that I’m NOT a pure-blooded procrastinator. (Editor’s note: I can.)

I was excited about finding a book on anxiety, especially one that screamed “Millions sold” on the cover. Anxiety is nothing new to me. I HATE making cold calls. I freeze in fear. That is anxiety. In my single days, I could never get enough nerve to talk to women in bars. I was too anxious.

The trouble is that “anxiety” is a term too broad for my taste. I don’t feel anxiety in typical social situations. I love to speak in public. I would have no problem running naked in the woods. I’ve met many who are plenty more anxious than me. Maybe I’m not really “anxious.” (Editor’s note: Yes, you are.)

The book that affected me the most was one about self-esteem. There was much in the book that made sense in the way it related to me– from the way I speak about my own accomplishments to my inability to say “no” to someone — fearing that they wouldn’t like me.

After our visit to Borders, we went to a Bistro-type restaurant for a late brunch. I brought along a 2-1 coupon that I had found in the mail. As some long-time readers of this blog know, giving coupons to waiters is one of these events that makes me ANXIOUS. I need to talk to my therapist about this. I know this makes little sense to you, but it almost feels as if I’m asking the waiter for a favor and imposing on him. I know, it sounds crazy, especially since I always leave a good tip on the full check amount.

As the waiter came over to our table, Sophia nudged me to give him the coupon before we order, as it is stated to do.

“Excuse me, ” I said to the waiter, as I fumbled with the folded coupon. “I have this thing… some sort of a certificate… um… but I’m not even sure if you even take it on weekends…uh?” (Editor’s note: On the coupon, it said, “Use any day.”)

“Oh yeah”, the waiter said, matter-of-factly. “Great. I’ll take it.”

And that was that. Sophia looked at me, laughing at how the episode made me into an incoherent wreck.

I thought to myself, “Think about what you just said to the waiter, and WHY — and you’ll understand YOURSELF a lot more than reading self-help books.”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Make Me Insecure Friday

Little Artie

Therapy has had two opposite effects.   It has motivated me to be more productive and organized, hence my post two days ago on how to be better organized.  Thank you!    Therapy has also made me incredibly self-absorbed, which is perfect for procrastination.   I never knew I could be so interesting to myself!   So, rather than working today, I spent most of the day mulling my own existence.  

First, let me ask you something.  I don’t know about your therapist, but my one hour session is really fifty minutes, because “Barbara” needs ten minutes to write her notes.   Does your therapist do the same?  I like Barbara a lot, but this business practice sounds a bit like the plumber charging you labor costs for his time filling out the paperwork.    Maybe I’m just grumpy because fifty minutes is not enough for me.  I’ve even started to skip the pleasantries of talking about the weather for a couple of minutes because I can feel the clock ticking.   When I walk out of therapy after such short sessions, I feel unfulfilled, as if I just went to a beautiful, naked Thai masseuse who rubbed by entire body in sensual oil, then told me to “get the hell out” so she could watch “Oprah.”  After my session today, I was in such a crazed mood to talk… to talk about myself.  Unfortunately, for many of you on my email list, there is the little invention called IM.  Please accept my apologies — all twenty of you — who I IMed with today while you were in the office.  At first, I was polite, meekly saying, “Hi there! How are you?” and then when you answered, I knew I had you trapped. 

“So, I just got back from therapy and it was very interesting.  I’m beginning to realize that I…. and that I… and… is the best for me… and… more sex… more for me… what I want… me…me…me…oh, right, your grandmother is dying… I remember when my grandmother was dying… me… me… and I was fourteen… and there I was, with my penis… me… aren’t I interesting?   What?  You have a job? … when I grow up, I want to be…”

I use Trillian for my IM messages, because the application can work on Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL simultaneously, so I had the entire world covered today.  Is it my imagination — or is everyone  on my IM list “invisible” tonight?   Oh, well, maybe everyone is just watching TV.   I can’t imagine that you would “hide” from me.

Barbara is a traditional therapist and she believes in all that crap about everything stemming from your childhood.   OK, I shouldn’t say “crap.”  I actually believe it too, but I am using humor as a “defense mechanism.”  How do you like them apples?  Defense-mechanism!   Don’t I sound self-actualized?  I know my stuff! 

When I look through my blog, I see themes that are played over and over.   I don’t mean that I use the same stories over and over again.  I do that, too, hoping most of the readers from 2005 have disappeared by now.  I mean that many of my posts have a certain world view that relates to my own neuroses.  One of them has to do with gender issues in my marriage.    Over and over, we’ve seen that Sophia is outwardly the strong one, while I sit at home, listening to ABBA.   Who wants a wimpy husband?  Gender roles affect our home, our family, and our relationship.  

Since these issues didn’t play much of a role in my life until I married Sophia, I saw it as a “marital” problem, but Barbara is helping me realize that you can’t really fix a couple; you can only fix yourself.   The seeds of my behavior were planted in me way before I had met Sophia.  I learned about gender roles and marriage from my own parents.  My confusion over a “man’s role” in society were already bouncing around my head as a child, my brain crowded with images of Clint Eastwood and James Bond battling it out with sweater-wearing Bill Cosby.

When I was at USC Film School, my final thesis film was a broad comedy called “Little Artie.”  It was just a little funny film, but when I mentioned the plot-line to Barbara, she was surprised that the story foreshadowed my relationship with Sophia — and I hadn’t even met her yet.   It feels pretentious analyzing my “work” as if I am Ingmar Bergman, but I’m surprised how unaware I was of the similarities. 

Is this how little I know myself?

Little Artie:

Artie and Elaine are a married couple.  They have a little dog named Little Artie, and they treat him as their child, like many pet-owners do when they don’t have children.

Note:  While it seemed funny at the time, it now seems a bit odd that I named the two characters, Artie and Elaine, since my parents’ REAL names are… Artie and Elaine!  And who would be Little Artie then?

In the story, Artie works as a curator at an art gallery.  He is peace-loving , cultured “liberal.”   Elaine is training to be a black belt in karate.  She is more conservative and believes in self-defense, and is more aggressive in the bedroom.   They get along great, except for differing opinions on how to “raise” their dog, Little Artie.   Artie wants him to be a loving pet, while Elaine wants him to be stronger, able to take care of the family if there is danger.   Later, while they are at work, their home is burglarized and the dog stands there watching all the furniture disappear.  When they come home and see their empty home, Artie and Elaine have a big fight.  Elaine insists that Little Artie go to “guard dog school” to get him into shape, while Artie refuses to allow this.  The argument gets intense and they file for divorce.  The question remains — who gets the dog?  At this point, the dog runs into the dog house in the backyard and refuses to come out for either of them.   The couple goes to court and the judge rules that whoever can get him out of the doghouse first can keep him.  And then there is some crazy comedy!  Well, except for the parts that fell flat.  There’s some new “lovers,” and a karate fight finale (I used a real fight coordinator) between Artie’s two rival women at an art gallery opening.  At the end, Artie and Elaine learn to compromise — Little Artie needs to be both strong AND sensitive.

Anyway, that’s therapy — week seven.

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