Chris Writes

My life in real time

Can Therapists Say Fuck?

Yes, I am now officially a student-therapist.  I also survived my first quarter of grad school.  I even met my first client.

Me, and my fucked up family.

I won’t be able to get rid of this client no matter what I do.  Nor did I really didn’t want to reacquaint myself with them.  Not in a more objective, non-judgmental therapist kind of way at least.  You see, part of being a therapist is seeing everything with a different lens.  This lens will help me be an effective therapist, but I can tell my wife is sick and tired of it.  Here’s a brief conversation:

Wife:  I can’t believe my mum called again.  I already told her I didn’t want to talk to her!

Me:  Interesting.  Why do you suppose she is not respecting your boundaries?

Wife:  Because she is insane.

Me:  Insane.  That’s a strong word.  Does this reflect how you really feel?

It’s insufferable I know.  But it’s who I am becoming.  I can’t cuss as often.  I can’t even get into epic Facebook battles over gun rights.  I can explore and reflect feelings.  I can role model and offer corrective experiences.  While the ID in me wants to vent like everyone else does, it’s not the life of a therapist.  We need to be an oasis of positive self-regard to use at your pleasure.

This is my new world and, if I choose to accept, I am going to have to get comfortable with it.  Fuck.




What Is Your Role?


Every family is a system.  For the system to function, you have to play your role.  If you don’t like your role and you want to change it, the system rebels.  It creates pressure.  It needs you to be what you unconsciously agreed to be.  It needs you to be what your parents socialized you to be.  If you can’t function in your role, you may have to walk away entirely.  There are no restarts.

But you never lose your role.  Even walking away from your family occupies a role.

Maybe you were the scapegoat in the family.  A regular source of blame and criticism.  You are a way for the system to relieve anxiety.  When your parents find it too difficult to deal with their marital issues, they transfer the anxiety to you.  The fuck up.  The clumsy one.  The mouthy one.  Always acting out.  They need you to be the scapegoat.

They triangulate you.

You are too young to realize what is happening, to differentiate yourself from what they want you to be.  So you agree to be the scapegoat.  Resigned to this role, you fulfill it.  You fuck up.  You drop dinner onto the carpet.  You yell and scream because that is your role.  Even your siblings are socializing you, as you are socializing them to play their roles.

There are many roles.  What is yours?  How does it serve your system?

via Daily Prompt: Restart


Invisible Sun


I never really knew my family all that well.  The person I knew the least was my father.  He died six months ago.  Even in death he tried his best to minimize himself.  To deflect attention away from him and what was coming.  He kept asking us to leave the room.  It was always his way to blend in while my mother, my siblings, and I lived our lives around him.  I had this dream of a stage, in the middle is my father sitting on his recliner, watching the television.  Moving vigorously around him is our family, orbiting like a school of fish.  He is the Sun.  An invisible constant body we hover around, letting out light and dark at rare intervals.  Like being at the base of a jungle canopy that rises hundreds of feet. Our movements around him speed up but his quiet, inert presence always stays the same speed.  Stop.  He is watching us live our lives, but we don’t notice because every time we look at him his eyes are fixed to the television.  Fixed to something we will never know.

I often wonder how his presence and absence of presence has affected who I have become.  He had so little prominence in my world that when he sexually abused me that one time it eclipsed everything that I could possibly know about my childhood with him in it.  My curiosity about this person died.  I knew in that moment everything I ever wanted to know.  The Sun that was invisible should remain that way.  There was no way he could have the potential to shine a little light on my childhood anymore.  In true Dad fashion, we woke up the day after and it was as if nothing had ever happened.  Just sitting and watching.

The Sun continued to pulse.

Then he died.  Then a few months later I changed careers.  I began study to become a therapist.  My first class?

Family origins.

They asked me how did your parents contribute to the person I was today?  I was required to answer somehow.  So this is where my journey begins.  To know the unknowable.  To find him in myself.

To cut open the Sun and peer inside.

via Daily Prompt: Constant

Our Social Media Experiment

It started out quite calmly.  Then our voices got louder.  We had hit a rough patch in our relationship and it was time to find a way out.  We started talking about, of all things, Facebook.  Yes, that great blackhole of timesuck.  The new ‘home’ where we hang our hats.  I have been wanting to step away from quite some time.  When things aren’t going well you look for distractions.  For outlets to connect.  To stay in touch with friends and family.  To share.  To laugh at funny videos.  To denounce the political stupidity of the other.  To do almost everything it seems.

The internet has replaced the TV as the place to go to zombie out.  To waste time.  To disengage from our immediate worlds to be part of a sometimes imaginary world.  This world provides a reward every time we log on.  The likes.  The comments.  They are fed to us in regular interviews.  If we seek, we find, instantly.  So we invest more time because we always get what we want, when we want it.

Imagine for a second if we changed social media.  If we made everyone wait a day before their likes, comments, and posts were added to our Facebooks and our Instagrams.  If we had to wait 24 hours for those responses to the funny selfie we just posted.  Our dopamine feedback loop would be broken and we would have a much different internet experience.

The social media is changing how we relate and how our children relate.  They are born into this.  That makes them an entirely different generation than those, such as me, who grew up in the 80’s.  We knew life before instant gratification.  We had to wait for things.  Many of us grew up knowing the merits of waiting for the things we want most.  Our children will only know this feeling if we expose them to it.  The world, as it is now, is not set up that way anymore.

After the voices died down, we agreed to stop all social media for 30 days.  Specifically those things that provide instant feedback.  Facebook.  Instagram.  Twitter.

I secretly hope this experiment will last much longer.

Let Him Carry His Own Water

When I was in my 20’s I met a girl.  She was a pretty girl with a pretty smile.  She was a tireless worker.  She lived in New York City, but left her life there to come home to a small isolated island in the Pacific Ocean named Guam.  She had advanced degrees in engineering and biology.  She had dreams of being a doctor someday.  Yet, her parents were getting old and they called on her to come back and take care of them.  It was what daughter’s did in her culture.  Actually in most every culture, it was the daughters who took care of the parents.  So she worked as a medical assistant, making just enough to get by.

When we met I had recently graduated from university.  I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  My father took an opportunity in Guam working for the civil service.  I was born in Guam, but I had bad memories of the island when I was a child.  I wanted to see if maybe I could turn that into something different.  So I went with them.

Then I met her.  She was a few years older than me.  She also was more ‘ready’ to settle down.  But she stayed with me.  She took really good care of me.  At one point, I had no job, and I was another mouth to feed.  I went into depression and spent hours on my dial-up internet connection, surfing the internet, waiting for her to get off of another 12 hour shift.  She even cooked me dinner.

She bought me a $1000 guitar with money she didn’t have.  It was my birthday and she knew I wanted it.  I got to be honest.  I let her buy it for me.  I let her do many things for me.  She was carrying my water, and the water of both her parents.  She was exhausted and run down and I let her keep going.  Taking care of others was what she knew best.

I still think back to her with regret.  With guilt.   I leaned heavily on her, but who did she have to lean on?  I knew it was wrong, but I wallowed in my own pity anyways.  I was a victim, and I played it well.  She didn’t have that luxury.

So when I read about the disaffected white male population lashing out against women and minorities and everyone but them, I understand the anger.  We hear about the ever-growing group of white males who are unemployed and not actively looking for work.  They are prone to drug and alcohol abuse and marathon sessions of Call of Duty on a Monday morning.

They are represented by a man who never had to carry his own water a day in his life.  I thought about Donald Trump when he trotted out General John Kelly in a press conference recently to use his reputation and dead son’s legacy to carry the water for the priviledged narcissist.

It was sickening.  It is sickening.  To carve out a significant portion of your time as POTUS to playing golf, watching news, and mean tweeting.  We live in a country of those who do not carry their own water.  They are cared for by mothers, wives, sons, daughters, minorities, and our military.  They don’t need to be.  They are quite capable.  Maybe they lost some of their priviledge and they sense all hope is lost.  This is what they see in Trump.  They feel emasculated by the lack of easy opportunities because the opportunities are expected.  When they dry up there is something wrong with the system.  It’s the system, not them.

Who gives our young boys this set of expectations in life?  That college, high paying jobs, and pretty women are waiting for us.  All we need to do is try a little and it’s all there for the taking.  Donald told us that it’s there, all you need to do is grab it with one hand.  They’ll even let you do it.  There’s no water for us to carry.  That sits on the back of the others.

And if we don’t receive what is expected, then we burn the whole system to the ground before even considering carrying our weight.

In Peace

I wondered what it would be like to be him.  He was dying.  Things like cars and houses and bills and next month no longer had any value.  You drift between anxiety and fear and regret.  You don’t have any more time to right all the wrongs you’ve done.  You are surrounded by the one’s you love the most.  So you can say i’m sorry for what i’ve done to you in this life.  Yet, life is long and overwhelming and filled with mistakes.  So that is where you leave it.

He died in stages.  In the week before he passed, he looked at his life.  He told me he had trouble sleeping.  His mind was filled with all the events of his life.  All the mistakes.  All the love.  All the memories.  It was a flood that kept him alert and awake.  Then there was the decision to leave.  How does someone decide it is time?  Suffering and pain over long months, over a couple of years.  The gradual taking away of old age and failing organs.  He had a good week about two months before.  He was like his old self, waking up early and doing yard work.  It almost made me believe I had my dad back.  He bought about ten new plants and filled his back porch his favorite flowers.  Then he got sick again and we were back to normal.  Maybe it was this time that broke him.  To feel good, just for a few days, and have that taken away once again.  It broke his heart.

Maybe he saw it as a gift.  One last offering of life.

On those sleepless nights he decided.  I didn’t realize it until the day he died.  There was a lightness.  He was smiling and his body seemed to be floating.  He used few words.  He had little energy but he mustered all of it in this moment.  When he looked at us one last time, as a father.  I felt this energy.  He only had to say one word.  Goodbye.  It was the look he gave that crushed me because I knew this was the last one.

They turned all the machines off.  The only thing left was the pain medications to keep him comfortable.  It was hard, the waiting.  It was necessary.  If not his children to watch, then who?  His heart rate gradually fell.  It fell so low and immediately collapsed.

The nurse came in, pushed the stethoscope to his chest, and shut off the machines.  He was finally with his mommy again.

In Death

I see the texts on my phone.  One stream is from my mother.  She is rapid and seemingly without focus.  A rattling off of events in real time, as she is experiencing them.  I read it like a code, trying to decipher what is happening.  Is he dying in a month or a week?  Did the doctor say he had 2 days or 2 weeks?  I can’t figure it out when pushed through her jaundiced filter.

She keeps asking me to come see him.  It doesn’t matter if I work or if I have a child to protect from this.  She is like a bright homing beacon, perpetually turning, beckoning me to come.  Every day if I would.  If I don’t come then she uses guilt.  Swings it at me.  At my brother.

My father is a good man.  That’s what most believe.  I have reason to hate him.  To want him to die.  To ignore him.

I saw his frail, emaciated body turned sideways on his bed.  There was dried vomit on his gown.  It led into a blue bag.  His stomach bulged, filled with fluid his diseased liver refused to filter.  His face was shriveled over his skull.  Eye sockets sunken in.  Both arms were painted in purple and brown bruises.  Four bags of medication were pumping into his system.  Keeping him alive.

There comes a point in our lives when mom and dad are here, then they aren’t.  I don’t know that experience will change me.  When the conduit closes forever.  Death is hard.  I find it hard to stay here in my present moment.  I wonder what am I doing?  Dealing with this or waiting or numbing myself into non-existence?

I am looking for a hiding place.  From all the beckoning.  In my dream I ask mom, “Do you know why I don’t want to come?  Do you know about dad?  Would you ask me to be there if I told you?”

I was vulnerable once.


I got the text early in the morning.  I wasn’t sure what she thought I could do.  He was in the hospital again.  He hadn’t woken up in the past day and was still asleep.  When I came in he was on his side, a stream of dried saliva crusted down the side of his mouth.  He kept kicking his legs out.  His body jerked spastically.  It wasn’t a seizure.  He grunted periodically.  Those were bowel movements.  He had tubes running through every orifice.

Mom urged me to talk to him, but I wasn’t sure what to say.  She pulled her chair closer and  grabbed his arm, saying “it’s okay, it’s okay.”

The doctor came in and told us we’d need to wait and see if he woke up.  Should I have spoken to him sooner?  What if he doesn’t wake up?  Mom cries.  She tells me that he always called her in the morning.  He didn’t call.  I can’t remember the last time I saw her this honest with her feelings.  Then she shuffles in her chair and the guard goes up again.

I don’t know how to wait on things like this.  Wait for it all to end.  The most horrible kind of waiting.  Things are going to change.  One minute you are sitting in a nice old house.  Then they are swinging through the drywall with bats and hammers.  Now it’s just a shell, this house.  Yet, it’s not over yet.  So you sit and watch a little more drift away.  A little more.  At some point it will feel like its gone.  Who knows when we reach that point.  So we wait.

On The Road



Childhood = climbing rock

I have these memories of nature.  The precious few times.  How my body ached from sleeping on the ground. Waking up to cool air, matted hair stuck to my face. The light so brilliant outside that I had to check my watch.  We were meant to wake up early.  I got lost in the woods and the adults didn’t seem to care so much.  An entire day was devoted to building a dam across a creek.  I decided to dam a river and the water swept me a half mile downriver.  My body never recovered from the shock of cold glacier water.  I could hear thousands of crickets in the darkness.

The campfires were centers of my religion. The flame and the crackle, buffered by a chorus of sound from the night creatures.  It gets in you and never leaves.

We told scary stories and funny stories.We made our own jokes.  It was amazing the things we could come up with. I looked down at my uniform, bright yellow patches reflecting the light. I was 10 years old. It was my birthday. My daughter leaned over and asked me to make her another S’More. We ate many.

The next day my mother made a surprise appearance. She had a large white and blue cake, enough to feed the entire troop. I had this horrible migraine headache. It was from spinning around in circles and making myself dizzy, over and over again.  We never thought about consequences.

I boiled some water and started pouring it into the coffee filter. Heat tendrils drifted into my nose. My daughter came out of the tent in her brightly colored house robe. I told her ten minutes and she quickly disappeared amongst the rock formations up the hill.


The Feathers in the back

She reappeared from behind a rock and waved at me. I waved back. Then she went a little further, looked back, and waved again. Just a little further away she goes.

Me and some of the other boys started climbing a tree. We were so high that the thin trunk swung with the breeze. I could see tents spread out below. A boy below waited for me to come down, but I didn’t. So he left. I straddled the trunk, closed my eyes, and put my arms out. The breeze felt so good on my face.


Tents far below

We scrambled to the top of a rock formation and looked down on the campgrounds. She carefully picked a small bouquet of wildflowers and handed me the most beautiful one’s. I told her not to step into bushes. There were rattlesnakes out here. We downclimbed carefully back down a steep gully. A fall here would be serious.


She walked over to the boy in the other tent and said goodbye.  Soon we were back on the highway. She leaned over to me and said, “I already miss it.”

Me too.

Eyes of My Father

I like to think I am just like her.  That I can turn it on. The joy of being here now.  The acceptance of just doing this simple thing. Tomorrow doesn’t exist.  The next moment doesn’t.  Life plays like a VHS tape, only picking up the tape that runs between the reader.  Wedged and bottlenecked and with no foresight.

I am only frustrated.  Worried about the world.  My job.  It is raining now and we should be climbing dry rock.  We walk from shop to shop.  What i’ve done hundreds of times.  The space lived in her only now.

What else should I be doing?  I check the weather report, but I know it already.

Then we climb, but she is too distracted.  There is too much happening now to climb, to be driven up broken granite by dissatisfaction.  It fuels my limbs, reminding me when I am hampered by my range of motion.  42 year old body willing the spirit of a teenager.

She moves like the child that she is, I was.  We move to a different song.  We move together, sharing this day in different ways.

The climbing is not important.  It symbolizes the passing of knowledge, of passion, of finding barriers, of passing ourselves existing only seconds ago.  She is so much like her mother.  There is a desperation to leave something of myself in the dirt here.  This pile of rope.  Our clasping of chalked hands.

The climbing.  The looking down to see it far below.  The fear in us resonates in our belly, our jelly arms.  It makes us numb.

Five times she says let me down daddy.  Five times we speak of it.  She carries it, in this moment.  Five times she says I release you.  Only one time does she stand at the top of the climb.  It is only then that I see something in her.  I see the eyes of her father.

I release you father.

I release you.
I release you.
I release you.