The Lego Incident

When I was around four years old, my days were spent primarily with my dad. My dad would take me to my grandfather’s house which was about 15 minutes from ours. My grandparents and my dad would hang out on the back patio by the pool doing adult things. That’s how I interpreted it anyway.

My uncle Patrick served as my primary guardian inside the house. He was kind enough to regularly entertain me and let me play with his toys (he was my dad’s half brother and of appropriate toy-playing age). I thought uncle Patrick was just the coolest. He would build things out of Legos that just seemed incomprehensible to me. GIANT LEGO PLANES, What!? It was just pure magic.

Well one day, I wanted to play with Patrick’s Legos. There was a big pile on the floor right by the TV. Generally I was pretty entertained by the television soap operas, but I guess on this day I had decided I would begin to conquer my own Lego airplane. I was four-ish, clearly I could handle it.

Now I remember the next parts of this story vividly. I walked over to the pile of Legos. There was a fair amount of yellow, red and black Legos consisting of the two, four and six pronged variety. These Legos seemed underwhelming. Maybe I should have just gone back to my soaps.

But then… there was this shimmering light from the pile. I saw this beautiful iridescent blue. It was kind of clear kind of not. I would later learn the word for this would be known as translucent. Either way, this Lego was special. This Lego had ONE prong on it.

So, I did what any young child would do. I stuck the blue Lego up my nose.

I instantly panicked. The logical part of my small as yet unformed brain kicked into gear and said, “Oooohhh nooooooooo…” and I started reaching into my nose trying to get it out. I kept digging and digging and I panicked even more. IT WAS GOING FURTHER UP MY NOSE. Somewhere in my mind, I worried the Lego would clamp onto my brain the way Legos clamp onto each other.

So, being a young child I toddled out to the patio and informed everyone that I had a Lego up my nose. Very simple. Lego, up my nose, you get it. They all just kind of looked at me puzzled.

The next parts are not so vivid. I remember panic. I remember lots of hands on my face. I remember my dad calling my mom on the phone and some hysterical screaming from the other side of the line. There was a flashlight up my nose. There were tweezers. IT WAS CREEPING FURTHER INTO MY BRAIN. More panic.

So then, my grandfather hobbled in. He hobbled because he had somehow managed to break his leg. Anyway, he hobbled. He demanded gruffly that I be placed on the bathroom counter with a light up my nose. Desk lamps were grabbed, I was placed on the counter horizontally, and I was terrified. I was convinced they were going to cut my nose open. Was this logical? No! I was four… geez.

So, my grandfather stood over me. He placed a tissue on my nose. He shouted, “Blow!” and I blew. “Blow harder!” so I really put some force behind my exhale.

Magically, the Lego rocketed from my nose. Lubed by snot and terror, I was freed from a life of mental incapacitation by Lego.

 

Burnout

I’m worried I’m going to burn out. I’m loving my internship right now. I feel like two years of hard work and striving for a dream are finally coming to a close and I will be able to move onto the next chapter of my life. At the same time, we are cautioned that counseling is hard work and emotionally exhausting. I kept thinking, “Whatever, I’ll be fine.”

Well, for the past week or so, I’ve come home with the desire to do… NOTHING. The idea of making dinner, going to the gym, even eating sounds completely appalling. I just want to be horizontal.

But I can’t! I can’t! I have blog posts, homework, dinner, lunches for tomorrow, laundry, dishes, and cats/fish to feed. It’s making this whole “being 24” thing feel impossible. I rationalize in the morning at 6 a.m. when the alarm goes off that I can always workout and do what needs to be done in the evening. That used to be the case when I had jobs that were not mentally challenging whatsoever.

So now I hear and invest myself in emotionally draining things every day. I love it! Not in a masochistic sort of way, but in a way where I feel like my life has meaning and I have found my “divine purpose” or whatever you want to call it. I’m also on my feet nine-tenths of my day. I’m definitely burning some calories, but I just feel drained by 6 p.m.

So, I need a new strategy. I need advice. I need you organized people out there to help me. Granted, I am organized. I’m organized in the way that I rarely write things down and generally have my mental list on lock. However, I can feel things slipping through the cracks. I took the first step toward getting my future in order with this Christmas gift:

I just seem to lack the motivation. My procrastination has reached plapable levels. I’m still getting things done, but it’s like last-minute chaos instead of a plotted and timely work/leisure combination.

So, how do I prevent the impending burnout I’m feeling? I know the basics… I’ve got to do the important stuff in the morning before the day has begun – work out, make food, all that jazz. That means I have to actually go to sleep at a reasonable time… which just seems impossible. I need at least 7 hours and me getting to bed before 11 p.m. might make the earth implode.

Does anyone have any suggestions/ideas/interventions? You don’t have to be a counselor-in-training or anything, I just need some life hacks to get me through the next 7 months. Any secret Jedi organization tricks you can share with me? I think I need a Remembrall.

The Case Files: Abraham Lincoln

My whole life I have felt drawn to different public figures. I’d consider myself well-educated and informed, but I still vote based on feeling. I don’t care how much I like a candidate’s tax reform policy if they give me a gut feeling that I shouldn’t vote for them. It’s very pedestrian and not scholarly of me, but it’s who I am and I kind of like it.

So when I was a wee Jen and I was learning about the American presidents, I felt myself drawn to Abraham Lincoln. Maybe it’s the beard (I love beards!) maybe it was the big nose (I’ve been known to like a sizeable schnoz) or maybe it was something else. I always just rationalized my love for the sixteenth president as a love for the man who fought against slavery. Seems noble enough, right?

Well then I learned about Lincoln’s “melancholy” as he and his loved ones called it. Similar to Churchill’s Black Dog, no one deemed Lincoln’s steady state of sadness as “clinical depression,” because that diagnosis didn’t even exist. Lincoln once described himself as the “most miserable man living,” and said if he was to divide his sadness among everyone else living, no one would have room for a smile upon their face. This dude was seriously upset about life.

As a counselor, I’m drawn to these people. I used to be one of these people! When I hear of people like Abraham being like this I become endeared to them. I instantly feel a kindred spirit because I understand two major qualities Lincoln possessed:

1. A profound and incomprehensible sadness.

2. An intense desire to be a better person and to make something of myself.

Lincoln had these qualities. In his early 20s, Lincoln attempted suicide. After this suicide attempt, he had about six manageable years of melancholy. In certain ways, Lincoln was justified to feel so terrible. Almost his entire family had perished from disease or misfortune and the only family member surviving, his father Tom Lincoln, was cold and distant. On top of that, Lincoln’s true love died from typhoid fever. Major life buzzkill.

Lincoln then had a nervous breakdown. In a letter to his bestie which he dated as the “fatal first of January,” he described the “deplorable state of his mind,” mainly an unsteady political career, a challenging law practice, an impending loveless marriage, and his best friend moving away. He had a bunch of stuff to be sad about. His grief-stricken childhood and an adulthood that just did not seem to go his way probably made Lincoln feel like he couldn’t catch a break. I would certainly wonder what the point of living was if I endured so much suffering.

But do you know what I really love about Lincoln? Lincoln thought about stuff. It’s common amongst depressed people. It’s pretty much the defining trait of depression. Your mind is just too busy thinking about dark and twisty things. Lincoln was also self-educated. He put himself through school and basically learned anything he was interested in. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Lincoln decided to live. He said to himself, “Well, I don’t want to give up. Life is crappy and I’m super depressed, but there are happy people in the world and they must deal with the sad things in ways that might be helpful to me.”

So Lincoln taught himself how to be happy. He became a scholar in learning how to manage his deep and pervasive depression. He made a choice. He decided that the good in life was worth living for and decided to teach himself how to maximize the good. Lincoln gave his life meaning.

Good thing he did, too. Lincoln did a lot for this country that many who are not assassinated in an untimely manner manage to do. It was Lincoln’s depth of character and his desire to understand himself which was ultimately his salvation. I am heartened to know that one of our greatest presidents struggled with so much inner turmoil. That is the kind of character value I want to see our future presidents posses. Forget about (most) of their politics, I need to know if they have ever looked inside themselves and decided to improve upon what they saw? We could all afford to do that.

“Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.” —Abraham Lincoln

P.S. Now that I know so much more, I’m buying this book. You should, too. We could talk about it!

Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

What do you think about Lincoln’s depression? Can you relate?