Monthly Archives: March 2015

Excuse me, but your pants are on fire.

Excuse me, but your pants are on fire.

I think the statute of limitations has expired and I won’t use any names here, but perhaps the ugliest lie I have ever encountered was by my new 1pm client on a Tuesday afternoon many years ago when I was a psychotherapist.

He came in broken-hearted, tearful and forlorn having taken the day off of work for our counseling appointment. He told me how incredibly torn-up he was inside that his wife of 12 years had accused him of having an affair with a blonde woman half his age who, halfway through the session, I had coincidentally deduced was my next appointment.

At that very moment she was likely waiting in my lobby for her 2pm meeting.

He used most of the session to passionately persuade me of his innocence and fear of what his now crazed, irrational wife might do as a result of her misguided opinion about his late work nights and three hour shopping trips to buy nothing. It was about halfway through our session full of tearful punctuations when two and two equaled four for me. He never even mentioned her by name. He didn’t need to. After all, his story was that he’d never met nor slept with this woman.

I allowed him his time, and at least for the first half of our meeting, empathized with him, knowing that while our 50 minute session may had been his first, it would certainly not be as therapeutic as the ones to come if he was as courageous as he was deceitful.

The session concluded and we set a time for a follow up meeting. I collected my fee in my office versus in the lobby for obvious reasons and he said he felt relieved and glad that I understood him. I handed him a box of Kleenex to take with him along with a very sincere: “I think you’re gonna need this.”

He opened the door of my inner office and having taken a few steps to the exit he turned left to me as if to say something and stuttered as he began to speak, seeing my next appointment in the chair–a woman he’d never met nor slept with– yet now called by name.

I did the same, and invited her to wait in my counseling office where I’d be with her momentarily.

I’d have called 911 but thought it best that he spent a little time aghast, speechless and bleeding. After all, I’d been quite generous with that 89 cent box of Kleenex.

It takes one to know one.

It’s not so much that people lie. Everyone did, has, does and will. It’s the ugly side of human nature. For some, they’re little white ones and infrequent. For others, like my client, lying had become a giftedness—a crafted way of life–for purposes only future sessions might discover if he dared.

Myself, I have never lied…except for right now.

Fact is, I was once a phenomenal liar, if not only to myself. Some get away with it in this life. They hurt people and hurt themselves. Some walk away unscathed, and just hurt people. Why?

Lying to save face. Desire for acceptance is sometimes so strong to an ego so weakened by criticism, people will lie their way into the good graces of others.

Lying to avoid consequences. All behaviors have consequences. As the late Mr. Rogers once sang, “Sometimes people are good, and they do just what they should. But the very same people who are good sometimes, are the very same people who are bad sometimes. It’s funny. But it’s true.” They weigh the painful consequences of being truthful against the delayed consequences of deceit. Karma.

Lying to your ego. Some cannot accept the fact that they might be mistaken and therein, convince themselves of the veracity of their own lies building a house of cards they can never pay for.

Lying for attention. A family friend once created an elaborate lie that she had cancer. As our family does, we banded behind her and raised money to treat her, created support structures to help her and pampered her as a cherished friend facing her death. The hurt and disbelief of such a long-lived, well-played lie was devastating while all she wanted was someone to care.

Lying for power. Some lie to get a one up on others who are less articulate or subjugates, believing their lies will prevail over the truths of others. This is a particularly devious person, most often sociopathic.

The worst part of a lie is not the lie itself but the curiously dissatisfying satisfaction when you get away with it.

I contend that the worst liars and the least likely to are those of us who have lied and learned, the process of which has burned an indelible, intervening conscience into our psyche making the pleasure of getting away with a lie anathema to that which we’ve become. We get sick, can’t sleep, self loathe and are forced to throw up the ugly untruths either before they are even committed or immediately thereafter.

So, I finished the session with my pretty 2pm client, keeping my integrity about not disclosing topics nor purposes of my 1pm client and doing some pretty good work with her despite the afternoon tension.

I was doing paperwork at my desk during a long break before my 5pm client which would end my work day when I got his phone call apology.

Rock bottom is a beautiful place, and mercy is a beautiful thing.

He began a course of counseling with me not about his infidelities but about his much deeper problems. When I last saw him months later, it was at the grocery store with his wife.

He flashed a huge grin across the checkstand. I did the same. And this time, his pants were not on fire.

Young men see visions and old men dream dreams.

To say it’s because I was once a paperboy would be to have missed the forest for the trees. But what a forest it might have been!

I’d visited the theatre to see the roadshow performance of “Newsies,” probably my favorite musical of all time. Despite it being the thrill it was, the experience was more nostalgic in part as I wondered so much of what might have been. At times it was hard to focus on anything but the cold bare stage of my mind, the tears in my eyes and all my performances that never were, and never will be.

Had I gone with a story of the enthusiastic moment, this would just be a five star review of the show that I sat down to write after arriving home following a backstage tour compliments of paperboy actor, dancer and friend, Chaz Wolcott, whose shoes and life that night filled a vicarious silent void in my history. But I was tired and went to bed. I hadn’t been up til 1130pm in months.

I’m far from being a whiner, but what happens when a middle aged man looks back and wonders how things might have been versus how they are can induce some sad moments.

I do good things these days that make me happy with what I produce for the world. Needy and deserving people get a roof over their heads, food in their bellies and hope in their hearts that things will be better. I’ve no apologies. I’ll never be rich or famous doing what I do, but then I’ve never aspired to wealth and fame, just fulfillment.

But among the many epiphanies of the evening, most notably: We need to escape. Like some of us, young actor Chaz Wolcott has a vision for his life. Me? I now just dream dreams of what might have been and do that to which I’ve been called. The only differences between the two are talent and time and a lot of it.

Visions are dreams of what may come. Dreams are visions of what might have been.

For as long as I remember, I have yearned to act, sing, dance and move about a stage like all those Newsboys and so many other young men of youth and vision on that stage.

I’m 30 years their senior, terribly out of shape and, if I am honest, somewhat regretful I never mustered enough of that vision when I was a young man. Had I been more comfortable with myself, I might have parlayed the handful of parts I played in school theatre into a performing career. But I didn’t and I think I may die wondering why.

The escape into musical theatre or the stage itself is a magical thing. As much work as it is to memorize, rehearse, travel and perform, I always regarded the work as a small price to pay for what I imagine to be an incredible freedom to make people laugh, smile, cheer and savor perhaps just a single night of escape from a busy work week. The musical theatre experience leaves me refreshed, inspired and motivated…and still dreaming.

So here I am. 530am. Getting caffeinated at the keyboard, planning for the poor people who will walk through my door today and playing an occasional escape game of Trivia on my phone…and dreaming just a little more about what might have been.

Life is wonderful. Musical theatre reminds me of this and the importance of escaping into a dream from time to time..

And to think, I almost missed the forest for the trees, forgetting that all the world’s a stage, and I’ve already been cast.

Isn’t it funny?

 

Whether naked and afraid

In the most desolate of places

In the loneliest of moments

Or darkest of spaces.

Not a penny to your name

Nor shirt on your back

Not a crumb in your stomach

Nor morsel to snack.

Closest to death

And losing the fight

On your last breath

The end now in sight.

It matters not time

It matters not place

You can always find humor

And a smile on your face.

 

Coming home

Mostly, it was the manner in which he parked his car that captured my attention.

Nearly sunrise, he pulled the BMW into space 219 with what was either delicate care or anxious precision.  Slowly and with style, the white lines framed the gold, still freshly polished body with perpendicular perfection as the engine silenced, both synchronized as if the entire action was one choreographed eight count of a slow dance.

The door cracked and he took pause inside. I decided at that hour he was either a very stylish drunk young man or very regretful one.  The comma of that moment was more like a series of long hyphenations with the several small deliberate steps it took to create such a classy exit from that beamer after such an obviously long night on the town.

It was almost light enough to see his handsome, tall, tired frame and the thin emergent lines around his eyes which had grown all night in their attempts to lure him home to rest.  He’d been to several venues from nightclubs to titty bars and a few incoherent places in between as he’d been for every Friday night that he could remember from recent years…and many he did not.

I watched him from my quiet Sunday morning perch on the patio where I’d been enjoying the pre-dawn breeze and my thoughts. He clicked the locks and lights on the car. His pace was slow, straight, pensive and, I think—this time—a bit regretful.  I smiled to myself and applauded him silently as I witnessed this private, game changing epiphany of a young man’s life who’d finally decided he’d had enough of youth. The entire scene was just so incredibly well done, as I imagined were most of his life’s best moments.

And  just then, I thought I’d heard a crescendo of cymbals as he closed his front door on the first thin horizontal ray of the sun.

 

Each of us has that moment when we finally grow up.

I’d seen none as poignant as his.

I don’t remember the day when I grew up.  I’m pretty sure I did, but it was much later in years than I’d expected if I was to ever expect one. It wasn’t the sighting of a grey hair or the fact it hurt getting back up this time.  Just as I’d spied of this man’s experience, growing up was mostly a moment in my head.

If it were predictable, it would be meaningless.  The convergence of experience, thought and time just one day unexpectedly align, sometimes at the break of dawn after a night out that used to be a lot of crazy fun but now just seems crazy. Some divine element sets in motion a completely different paradigm to the path we had, up til then, so painstakingly prepared for ourselves.

We’re a lot more sober.  We are less prone to experience and more prone to contemplate.  We wonder how much of these years we will regret and which few experiences we will remember with fondness, and if we will even call it that.

There are no boundaries to youth except those which our consciences inflict upon us. And it’s always at the right time.  Wild and Crazy are sent to the back seat on our nights out and Wiser and Smarter sit driver and shotgun and set the route for the evening.  I think this is all supposed to happen before the back seat drivers take you on a trip to jail or worse, to the morgue.

But inevitably, at least for most of us, it happens at the right time and place. And sometimes it happens right in front of an unsuspecting someone very early one morning who imagines that we have finally found truth and meaning in one rather large but painless epiphany.

The warm morning sun was now well over the horizon and my coffee cup was empty.  My four-legged best friend was whining for our routine, so I slipped on something comfy and with leash in hand, headed out the door for a brisk morning walk before church.  While I was certain he’d long since gone to bed, we walked past his place and Butch flew off the leash and ran up the walk as he opened his door.  His chocolate brown Chihuahua met mine and instantly, they were buddies.

“Hi. Hey, sorry about that,” I said pulling on the leash.

“No worries, I was headed out for a walk with him anyway. It’s good they’re getting along.  A lot of times Chihuahuas don’t,” he assured me as the dogs were still introducing themselves to one another.

We were on the same path on the same street in the same direction and our dogs, already marvelous old friends, were doing what dogs do and people don’t understand yet admire.  It was just small talk between us and he’d no idea I’d witnessed the beautiful experience of his earlier arrival home nor what I’d inferred and suspected  to be a rather significant moment in his life.

“I’m always up early and we go on a walk in the morning.” I struggled to continue the conversation.

“Yeah, as events would have it, so am I,” he replied.

We continued the conversation and I avoided getting too deep as we’d only just met, though our dogs were chatting about intimate things like the smell of butts, dead birds and how many bushes they could pee on in one outing.

“Well, we’re gonna head back home I think. Time to get ready for church,” I said as I let our friends finish their business together.

“Church?  Man, I haven’t been to back to church in a long time,” he almost stuttered with great curiosity and the next question.

“Yeah, it’s just up the street and I still need a shower.”

I finally introduced myself by name and apartment number at that point, and as I turned, I smiled the exact same smile I’d smiled alone on my porch watching him in in the early dawn of that morning.

I was enjoying the experience of watching what was obviously  his second glorious epiphany of that morning.

Nobody ever regrets growing up,

and nobody ever regrets going back to church

on a Sunday morning.

What if?

What if that last time you pulled out in traffic, the bus actually hit you broadside?

What if when you found the gas on the stove and turned it off, it exploded.

What if last night’s indigestion that made you restless was actually a massive heart attack?

What if last July 4th, that dud really wasn’t a dud when you went to check it?

What if that flu you thought you could kick with plenty of rest wasn’t the flu?

What if that really cool lightning storm last month was a lot closer than you thought?

What if you stood a little too close to that cliff for that vacation selfie?

What if you walked into that store just a minute earlier, before you heard the gunfire?

What if while you were reading this….

you ran out of chances?

Tomorrow will be a lucky day

If all goes well, tomorrow will  be a very lucky day  for some very unlucky people.

It may be Friday the 13th, the fear (triskaidekaphobia,) of which fuels cynics, skeptics and worry-wart sticks-in-the-mud who lack vision, hope and strong attachment to a dream, but really, who cares?

Call it superstitious fun, but if you’ll get on board, bring your black cat and let’s walk under some ladders together in defiance.

Are you with me?

Though this is home to Lady Luck,  there are plenty to whom she hasn’t been so kind.  I know first hand.  Every day they sit in front of me desperate and in tears. Hungry, homeless, old and looking  to make normal lives for themselves.

As luck and statistics would have it, bad things happen to good people all the time.

A medical emergency, unexpected job loss, a family crisis, a criminal act…we all have a better than even chance of becoming victims.  So, essentially, luck plays little part, except for those of us who, fortunately, keep beating the odds.

I expect if you’ve read this far, you’re a reasonably compassionate person.  You care what happens to others– even strangers –and to the extent you are able, you’re inclined to help people out of pits into which they have unexpectedly fallen.  You have a heart.

Ten lucky bucks can change their normal.

I work for a place that changes the normal of thousands of people each year who are down on their luck but could get back on track and be self-sufficient for the price of your lunch today or your coffee tomorrow.

HopeLink of Southern Nevada delivers nine of your ten bucks to unlucky but deserving people who just need a break and time enough to get back on their feet.

Between right now and the stroke of midnight tonight, your computer and a credit card can bring good fortune to a lot of people come the morning of Friday the 13th.

Are you with me? 

Here’s where you go:    http://www.nvbiggive.razoo.com/story/Hopelinkbiggive

Let’s put an end to hunger, homelessness… and triskaidekaphobia.