Tag Archives: Connecticut

I Have Moved Around A Lot

I currently live in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. I have been living here for about two years. Like most people who live in this area, I am not originally from here. I grew up in a town called Avon, Connecticut. I went to college in Boston. I lived in Washington, D.C. for a stretch and then went to law school in New Orleans. While in New Orleans I met and married my wife who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After law school we moved to Scranton and lived there for a year. Then we moved to Philadelphia and lived there for ten years.

In Philadelphia I worked for a big, corporate law firm performing a job I hated. It paid me well but I hated it. I felt unappreciated, made to perform mindless work and trapped because I had upgraded my life style to match my income and could not move to another job that would pay me as well.

In 2009 the recession put an end to that misery because my wife and I both got laid off. We then moved to Connecticut thinking we could live with my parents for a short period of time until we both found work. That short period of time lasted longer than we expected. But eventually we both landed work from home jobs. Suddenly we were in a position to move where ever we wanted to. After some research we picked a place with good schools and a low-cost of living and here we are.

I look back on all this moving with some regret. Everywhere I lived I always felt like I was trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time. If I had to do it all over again I would definitely have made different decisions.

Now that we live in North Carolina I find myself constantly amazed by how nice people are in comparison to all the other places I have lived. When I first moved down here I found myself in situations where I expected people to  f#!@ with me and surprised they didn’t.

I suppose there is some Wizard of Oz message in all this. That I can travel the world looking for happiness but I really only had to go no further than my own back yard. I did move back to my own back yard after I got laid off and it was miserable. But the message is not literal. Dorothy is referring to the back yard of my soul I am sure. I think that is true to a point. Certainly, if you are miserable you are most likely going to take that misery with you where ever you go. On the other hand, if you are miserable there is something about your current situation that is making you miserable so shaking things up can be a good thing. Certainly staying put will probably not change things as I learned from staying at that law firm in Philadelphia for ten years.

I think change can be made, but it has to happen from within and sometimes outside help is needed to make that happen. Growth is possible. I am not the person I was twenty years ago. There’s nothing to do but look forward and keep moving.

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part VI

After about a year of being unemployed I managed to land a contract position working for an insurance company auditing their legal bills.  The hours were full time and the work was a tedious, cubicle type job.  Because I was a contract employee I did not have medical benefits, it did not pay very well and I was treated like a second-class citizen compared to the full time employees. On the other hand, I did have a place to go during the day and I had enough income coming in where I was able to get off unemployment insurance. It was better place to work than Dechert because the hours were not as long and the people were a little nicer. For that I was grateful. Basically, I was working this job because it was better than being unemployed.  But I knew that I was working this job only until I could find something better.

The guys in my Men’s Group were supportive and happy that I finally was no longer unemployed. But they all encouraged me to look for a job that better suited my desires.  At the time I really had trouble articulating what I actually wanted.  When asked this question my mind would go blank.  I knew I did not like working in a cubicle all day.  I had a vague notion that I wanted to write but every time I tried to write I ended up getting derailed.

Then I heard about a history teacher position at the private high school I attended when I was a kid. I loved history and could picture myself moving out of my parents’ house and becoming a part of the school’s community.  The job sounded much more exciting than my soulless, corporate cubicle job. I started to get really excited about it.  I interviewed with some of the school’s faculty.  A few of them were teachers that I had in high school. I thought the interviews went well and I really started to get my hopes up.

I remember going to work feeling good about the prospect of not having to work there much longer.  I went to group and told them about the position.  They all seemed to think it would be a good fit for me.  Weeks went by and I did not hear anything from the school.  Every week in the mens’ group they asked me if I got the job.  I kept telling them I had not heard yet.  Then one day I got an email in my cubicle informing me they hired someone else for the position.

I was devastated. I went to group and told them what had happened.  I could barely get the words out when I described the humiliation I felt.  When I did I broke down crying in front of them. At first I tried to hold back the tears but Scott told me to let them out.  Against every fiber of my being and every instinct I had I allowed myself to cry in front of them.

Craig (one of the group members) told me he thought I was going to get the position but now he knew that I was meant not to get it because I had to go through this experience.  I did not fully understand.  But after that meeting I felt better.  A huge weight of humiliation and defeat had been lifted off my shoulders.

I sent Craig an email and asked him what he meant.

Hey Craig,

Last night seemed significant.  But now I feel like that significance is receding.  Can you please tell me your perspective on my work so I don’t lose what happened?  Does that make sense to you?

Thanks

 

He responded:

 Last night was a miracle.  You let people love you even though you were feeling humiliated.  No one attacked you for being who you are.  You let people witness your vulnerability and your perceived “badness” for lack of a better word and you were loved through it, not beat up.  You let people see into your soul and you survived it.  You jumped from a cliff that you could never survive jumping from and landed on your two feet completely unhurt.  Not only unhurt but a better person for jumping.  George, last night was beautiful.  If there were words that would let me relay the true significance of last night I would share them with you.  Words will never do justice to what we experienced last night.  Please let me point out that I did say “we.”  Every person in that room last night was taken to a place we could never be alone.  I feel sad that Dave and Marc weren’t able to be in your presence last night.  It was easily the most significant night in my group experience other than my own major breakthroughs which I can count on both hands.  Stellar.  I hope this puts a little perspective on what happened last night.  And as an addendum, we can never lose what happens to us spiritually and I mean never as in eternity.  Can we feel that always, I don’t know but I can appreciate it when I do.

Love,

Craig

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part V

Over the course of the next three years I worked almost every group meeting.  I was usually the first person to show up and I never missed a meeting unless it absolutely could not be avoided.  I possessed a strong inner motivation to be there because on some level I knew it was working for me.  Over time I began to see things about myself more clearly.

I saw that I grew up feeling deeply flawed and at my core I did not trust anyone.  I developed an isolated and easily wounded personality.  I compared myself to everyone else and found myself lacking.  If I witnessed anyone succeed I felt ashamed that I never succeeded.  If I did succeed, I down played my success as if there was a reason I could not fairly claim my success or else be branded a liar or a braggart.  If I failed I felt cruelly and unfairly judged by the world and bitterly angry under the surface.  If my anger surfaced I was made to feel ashamed for being weak and selfish.  In short, I realized that there was no way to win in the world in which I lived.

As I became more aware of this anger within me, I could see how it manifested itself in my life.  I found myself lashing out at former tormentors when I was alone.  Interestingly, when Scott tried to get me to display this anger in a therapy session around other people I found it very difficult to fully get in touch with it.

I also became aware that I self-sabotaged myself when I did something that I wanted to do.  At the time I had been trying to set aside time to write.   But every time sat down to write I became easily distracted or my mind would blank out.  I also became consumed by the potential reactions of other people who might read what I have written.  I then felt ashamed.  “What a stupid, self-indulgent, pathetic thing to write,” I would tell myself. All of this would cumulate and I would find myself not writing.

Scott and I did some “pillow work” on this subject.  He threw a pillow on the floor, pointed to it and said, “That pillow is you and you want to write.  Will you try to discourage the from writing?”

“Get your work done first then you can spend time on your hobbies,” I said to the pillow.

“But he wants to write,” said Scott addressing the force I impersonated, “why can’t he do that?”

“It is irresponsible to not get your work done first,” I answered as the force.

“Why are you smiling?” Scott asked.

I then noticed that I was smiling and felt amusement and shame at once.

“So you’re fucking with me?” said Scott.

“No,” I denied.

“Then why are you smiling?” asked Scott.

I said nothing.

“Who are you?” asked Scott.  “Who is this force you are impersonating”

I knew the force was my father but I was reluctant to say this.  It felt disloyal.  At the same time I could picture him making me feel irresponsible for doing what I wanted to do.  It surprised me that he experienced pleasure in doing this.  I did not want to believe that.

“Okay,” said Scott, “now you be yourself and let the pillow be your father.  What do you want to say to him?”

It feels very awkward but I summon the courage and say in an unemotional voice, “Dad, I think it’s really unfair what you did to me.  I don’t want to carry this burden of shame around.  I want to follow my passions and not constantly be derailed.”

“I hear what you are saying,” Scott said to me, “but it sounds more like reasoned discourse.  Where is the anger behind it?”

I understand what he said to me but it seemed like an impossibility to display the depths of my anger in front of him.  I think deep inside on a very basic level I do not fully trust that he would not shame me if I displayed my anger.  Or perhaps I will shame myself.

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part IV

My wife and I started to see a couple’s therapist named Dori in Connecticut who was part of a larger practice trained in the Gestalt method.  Her office was an upper room in a large, formerly residential house that had been refurbished into therapists’ offices.  She primarily had us “mirror” each other whereby one of us would state an issue and the other one would repeat what the first one said starting with the phrase, “I hear that you feel…”  This was very difficult and after several sessions it did not seem like we were making much progress.  We were still angry with each other all the time.  During one session I had expressed that I felt a lot of shame and that I was trying to get past that and that was the reason I had seen the psychic.  And I did not like how my wife had shamed me into not seeing her.  Dori suggested that I join a “men’s group” that two of her colleagues ran in the same building.

I showed up to the first session feeling very awkward and nervous.  The group was made up of six men and two facilitators (Scott and Dave) who were trained in Gestalt, body centered therapy.  I remember that first session everyone took their shoes off in the hall so I did too.  I saw some other people bring in folding chairs so I grabbed one and set it up in the room. Other people sat on couches already in the room.  Once everyone had settled in the facilitators went around to the group members and asked them if they wanted to “check in” or “work.”  If a member checked in he would briefly describe how his week had gone and how he was feeling generally.  If a member chose to work he would describe something that was bothering him and the two facilitators would probe him until they got to the bottom of the issue.

Often the method employed was called “pillow work.”  If a member said they felt anxious about something (for example) the facilitators would put a pillow in a chair facing the member and say, “That pillow is you.  Make you feel anxious.”  Then the member would try to put himself into the mind of a person who would try to make him anxious.  Often this process resulted in the member lashing out in anger and then breaking down crying.

Each member checked in or worked and I grew increasingly nervous as I felt my turn approaching. I remember one member, Rick, announced to the group that he was dying of prostate cancer.  He had just been diagnosed with six months to live.  He seemed pretty balanced about it.  I remember thinking none of my problems were significant in comparison to his.  When it was finally my turn and everyone turned to me I remember saying that this type of situation was very difficult for me.  Scott told me he thought I was courageous for doing what I was doing.  I did not believe him.  I thought he was just trying to make me feel good about myself.

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My Experience with Psychics

My high school girl friend’s mother channeled spirits.  The main spirit she channeled was named Myra.  I remember going with my girlfriend into her mother’s bedroom and sitting across from her mother who was sitting on her bed.  She closed her eyes and her face went blank.  She then began to speak in another voice.  I cannot specifically recall what she said.  I remember it being convincing though.  I accepted it as real and took it at face value.

Twenty or so years later after Dechert laid me off in 2009, my wife and I decided to move from Philadelphia to Connecticut.  We put our house in Roxborough on the market.  One weekend I drove down to the house for an appointment and stayed there over the weekend by myself.   On Saturday morning I went down the hill to Manayunk for breakfast.  On Main Street I passed by the Manayunk Psychic’s storefront I had seen many times before.

I think I turn to superstition when my life is not working or are out of my control.  I was feeling very vulnerable at the time being newly unemployed and not having the support of the psychologist I had seen for the past few years.  I was unemployed, my marriage was horrible and my house was not selling.  At the time I saw therapy as something I tried but did not work on me because my problems went too deep. At that point in time the psychic seemed like a viable option.

She gave me a tarot reading.  What she told me seemed spot on.  She suggested that I go through a spiritual cleansing and it would cost around $500.  That seemed like too much to pay at the time although I seriously considered it because I felt so trapped, lost and at the end of my rope at the time.  I did not end up going through with it but it did plant the seed in my head.

When we moved to Connecticut I was so desperate to find a solution to my problem.  I searched for “spiritual cleaner” on the internet.  There happened to be a psychic offering that service in the town where I lived.  So I made an appointment.  She was a blond, Polish woman around thirty years old named Agnes.  Her office had a massage table and a new age altar with crystals.  The room was dimly lit and meditative spa music played in the background.  I told her I was looking for a spiritual cleansing.  She told me to keep three notebooks, one for my dreams, another for positive thoughts and memories, and the third for negative thoughts and memories.  She had me lie down on the table and she gave me a Lomi Lomi massage.  When she got to my legs she pulled the negative energy out through my feet.  At the end of the session she gave me bath salts mixed with essential oils and told me to use them when I got home.

I saw her a few more times.  She charged me $150 every time.  I felt like I was making progress.  I started taking Epsom salt baths regularly.  She had me praying to angels, asking them to intercede for me.  She described a whole system of angels.  I remember her talking about “runners” who delivered messages.  There were others but I do not remember them anymore.  There was Archangel Michael, whom she said she saw from time to time.  She had me write things down over and over.  She had me draw pictures of what I wanted to be.  At one point she told me to take the notebook of negative memories into the woods, put it in a pot with Epsom salts and light it on fire.  I remember doing that on a rainy day down by the Farmington River.  I remember being so paranoid that someone would walk up on me and ask me what I was doing.

At the time I was still unemployed and went on a lot of walks and bike rides.  I remember praying to the angels that my life would change.  Eventually my wife harassed me about spending money a psychic and shamed me into not seeing her anymore.  It was easier just to stop seeing her than to continue.  I am not entirely sure whether Agnes was scamming me or not.  I am not entirely sure I did not make some kind of progress with her at the time.  Perhaps she served her purpose somehow.  I just don’t know.

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Feeling Like an Outsider

For a few years my wife and I had thought about moving to Connecticut where my parents still lived in the house I grew up.  I was not all that happy with Philadelphia.  I did not like my job and I did not have that many friends.  My wife liked it there but she was willing to make a move.  So for a few years while I worked for Dechert I had been conducting a job search in Connecticut.  I waived into the Connecticut bar (a process which took more than a year of amassing records and dealing with the court system).  I was even approached by The Hartford (an insurance company in Hartford, CT) and interviewed for a position that seemed like it would solve all my problems. I ended up not getting the position.  After that my wife and I decided to stop looking to move to Connecticut and decided to buy a nicer house in Philadelphia in an effort to commit to the area and establish roots.

This issue about establishing roots has its origin in the fact that ever since I graduated from college I never felt like I belonged anywhere. When I was young I felt like I belonged in Connecticut even though I was bullied, picked on and humiliated.  When I went to college in Boston I felt like I belonged there.  I was on the same level with all of my peers who were from various places around the country.  But once I graduated from college and could not find a job I fell off the life track that I was supposed to be on and that I felt all my peers were on and had left me behind.  As such, I was so humiliated and felt like I had to hide from the world because I no longer legitimately held a place there.

This feeling stayed with me.  When I moved to Burlington, VT I felt like an outsider there because I was not hippy enough.  When I moved to Washington, DC I felt like an outsider because I did not have a good enough (i.e., well paying and connected job).  When I moved to New Orleans for law school I felt like I belonged on one level because I was on the same level as all my fellow students.  But deep in my heart I felt like I did not belong because I was not a native to New Orleans.  After New Orleans, I was an outsider in Scranton because I was not born and raised there.  And when we moved to Philadelphia I was an outsider there first because I was not a native to the area but also because the firm I worked for treated me as a second-class citizen.

This feeling like an outsider is a bit of a “chicken and the egg” phenomenon.  On the one hand, did I feel like an outsider because I carried that feeling with me?  In other words would I have felt that way no matter where I went?  Did I attract situations where I would feel like an outsider?  The job a Dechert would seem to support this theory.

So my wife and I decided to buy a bigger house during the height of the housing bubble.  We made some money selling our starter house but in order to buy our larger dream house I borrowed some money from my father.  He seemed happy to give me the money at the time but later I felt ashamed for having done that.  Especially after the housing market crashed and I lost my job and we were no longer able to pay the mortgage.  At first we tried to sell our house but there were no takers after the crash.  During this time I burned through my 401K that I accumulated over eight years at Dechert.  Just as that money was about to run out we were able to rent the house.  By this time we were living in Connecticut living with my parents.

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Flower Truck

Eventually I found a job doing “light industrial” work for a wholesale flower distributor in Southington, Connecticut called Nyren Brothers.  At the time I was willing to take any job just to get out of the house.  The duties involved driving a truck around the state of Connecticut delivering boxes of flowers to retail flower shops.

The first day I arrived wearing khakis and a button down shirt.  I felt overdressed and out-of-place as if the people working there were judging me thinking I was a rich kid who could not handle the work.  They assigned this Puerto Rican guy named Noel to train me.  He was a small guy in a football jersey with dark hair and a mustache.  Noel showed me a route delivering to about twenty shops. In the morning we got a list of shops that placed orders.  We would have to order the shops in the order they would fall along the route then load the truck putting the boxes for the shop we would deliver to last in first and continuing in reverse order.  That way the boxes we needed would be easy to get to. I sat next to him in the cab as he drove and took notes on how to get to each shop.  He was a nice guy and I liked him a lot.  I did not feel judged by him.

I remember getting up early in the morning before the sun rose (especially in the winter).  The headlights in my rear view mirror cast this hypnotizing glare that made me feel like I was falling asleep at the wheel.  It was only through sheer willpower that I stayed on the road.

After two weeks of riding with Noel I was put out on my own.  I loaded the truck myself and made the deliveries.  I enjoyed being out on the road by myself all day long listening to the radio. I listened to the Collin McEnroe show in the morning.  At noon I listened to Rush Limbaugh and in the afternoon I listened to All Things Considered on NPR.  I brought a lunch and ate while driving.  Noel encouraged me to stop somewhere and relax at lunchtime and that seemed like a good idea but I never did.  I took pride in my increased knowledge of the different routes in Connecticut.  I also took pride in my ability to handle a truck in the snow.

Each shop had its own personality.  Some owners were nice and some were snobbish.  There was the beautiful Swedish woman with a small shop in Suffield.  There was the run down shop in Hartford owned by an African-American guy named Jesse who we would only accept cash from.  There was a shop in West Hartford where this girl took an interest in me.  She would slip me notes when I made deliveries.  One time she stopped by Nyren Brothers before I left on my route and put a small art project under my windshield wiper with her phone number on it.  I called her but told her I had a girlfriend who at the time I thought I should be loyal to.  Looking back on it, I wish I took advantage of that opportunity.

Some of the shops were in urban areas.  I remember breaking off the side mirrors of cars because I drove the truck too close.  That happened a couple of times but I never stopped.  I feel bad about it but the job was complicated enough. One time I made a delivery to a shop in downtown Greenwich, a town famous for its wealthy residents.  This one particular shop was on a street that went downhill with diagonal parking spaces on the sides.  It was difficult to find a parking space near the shop most days but sometimes I got lucky.  On this particular day there was a spot right in front the shop.  As I pulled in, an older woman tried to pull in on my right side and my truck scraped her car.  As soon as I felt contact I stopped the truck and got out to take a look.  She was an aggressive type and immediately blamed me for the accident.  A police officer came and looked.  I remember her car was and old BMW and her bumper was held on with duct tape.  The cop seemed to take her side.  The woman was dressed to suggest that she was a rich person living in Greenwich even though her car was beat up.

The funny thing was that in this situation I felt like they all looked at me as the rough around the edges, ignorant, working class kid driving a truck.  Back at Nyren Brothers I felt like they all looked at me like an over privileged rich kid.  There was no place that I felt at home.  I always felt in the wrong place with everyone judging me negatively.  My intentions were always to avoid looking like the bad guy but I always felt like everyone looked at me that way.  My therapist would tell me later this was the energy from my parents that I bonded to as a young child.  I was wrong no matter what I did.

After a few more weeks I started working with this guy named Pokey chopping flowers in the large, refrigerated area before driving my delivery route.  Flowers arrived in boxes from Holland or Venezuela or Columbia packed in ice.  We would take them out, chop off the ends and put them in buckets of cold water with a powder called “Floral Life” to preserve them.  In the mornings the flower shops placed their orders with the sales people who then packed boxes with the flowers Pokey and I prepared.  Pokey was a talkative guy with a skin condition called Lupus that made his face red in patches.  There were these flowers that emitted a strong, sweet fragrance when chopped called tuberoses.  Pokey would always joke that you could fart all you wanted when you cut tuberoses.  I learned the names of all the different types flowers we worked with.  My cousin thought that was cool, but I thought that I really did not know anything about the flowers other than their names so it was not all that great.

Having steady work and a place to be during the day allowed my humiliation to ebb a little.  I still felt humiliation anytime someone asked me what I did for a living and avoided that subject during conversations.  My father would frequently ask me if I was going to look for a different job and that always made me feel anxious.  Underneath I felt humiliated because I was doing manual labor as a college graduate.  Further, the work did not pay me enough to move out of my parents’ house.  When I was younger I always felt like there was more time to turn things around.  I would not always be the last kid picked for the kickball team and things would work out for me eventually.  But at this point in my life I began to panic that maybe they never would.

In the truck, listening to the radio all day I was introduced to Rush Limbaugh.  I identified with what he was saying.  Conservative outrage seemed to make sense to me.  Liberals were to blame because the economy was not good enough for a college graduate to find decent work.  It was high taxes, the entitlement state and over-regulation that did not allow businesses to thrive.  This was the reason there were no good jobs for me like there were when my parents graduated from college.  Liberals and political correctness were to blame.

Almost every weekend I drove up to Boston to be with my girlfriend who was still attending college.  I got the idea in my head that I wanted to go to law school because she said that she wanted to do that.  Also, it made sense.  My father was a lawyer and I could follow in his footsteps and then he would be proud of me.  I studied for the LSATs and did well on the practice exams.  On the day of the test I had such a bad stomach ache that I winced in pain as I took the test.  When I received my scores I did not get into any of the schools that I applied to except Loyola in New Orleans where I was wait listed. I was depressed and felt hopeless but maybe the stomach-ache were my body telling me something that my mind did not want to hear.

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