November 22, 1963

November 22, 1963: 10:40AM, Pacific Standard Time. I am 11 years old and home alone, sick from school. My mother is at work and two of my sisters (who are still living at home) are in school. My oldest sister is married and living in east Hollywood with her husband and children. There is nothing to do but watch television. I haven’t yet learned how to avoid boredom. I do not have any connection to what is on TV until there is a breaking interruption: just a voice at first with a set of the word, Bulletin, repeated three times. The president’s motorcade in Dallas, Texas has been shot at. Not much was known at first. A little while later, the news was that President Kennedy and Governor Connelly of Texas were both wounded. Shortly after the TV station went live from New York, Walter Cronkite announced the terrible news that President Kennedy was dead, the victim of an assassin’s bullet. I was shocked and furious. This was MY president not just the American President, but the one who represented my first political identity. Prior to him running for president in 1960, I saw the presidents as old, withered men with whom I could not identify. My political birth happened with JFK’s candidacy when I was eight years old. I strongly encouraged my mother to vote for him. I believe she did…after all, he was born the same year as she was. He was smart, charming and attractively young. He was seemingly open. The future. Now what? I demanded of the world that they find the person responsible and bring him to justice. I wrote something like that in big letters and pasted it on the dining room window as it looked out to the world racing by. I’m certain no one saw it except my sister several hours later who berated me for my stupidity. There was no one there but me. I HAD to express my feelings somehow even if no one saw it. By the time everyone was home, it was clear that they all knew what happened. Incredibly, no one shared their feelings or thoughts about it though we all were stuck to the TV broadcast. While watching the funeral procession three days after the assassination, I cried privately, silently to myself. In our family, crying in front of anyone was never encouraged.

For the next few years, it seems, I lived in a bubble alone. I always suspected Lyndon Johnson had something to do with the assassination…after all, who had more to gain from Kennedy’s death? LBJ ran an ugly campaign in the primary elections and lost to Kennedy. He was seen in Fortworth, Texas in the day or two prior to the assaaination as seemingly irritable and unhappy. Those in the know explain that things were not going well for Mr. Johnson politically at the time. He was a man used to having unfettered power as Speaker of the House prior to his failed primary campaign against JFK. Now, he was playing second fiddle to a relatively young upstart that he apparently despised.

Recent re-examinations of the forensic evidence seem to confirm that all three shots came from the Texas schoolbook depository, fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. So, he was a lone gunman. Nevertheless, I still wonder how it was that a man, who defected from the US to the Societ Union, lived there for two years, married and had a child, was simply allowed to re-establish his citizenship and return to the US bringing his wife and child with him. How did this happen in the midst of a very cold war? Unless, he was helped by someone in power…When Oswald was in the US Marine Corps, he was a radar specialist with “confidential” clearance. He was living in the USSR when Francis Gary Power’s U2 spy plane was shot down. Did Oswald have anything to do with that? I have no idea, but it’s hard to believe in so many co-incidents. It should have been just as hard for US officials as well. He returned to Dallas, Texas where he had lived with his mother prior to joining the Marine Corps at age 17. Of course, Johnson’s home State was Texas.

I was devastated and had no idea how to deal with it. It was my first major loss. No one, it seemed, understood the momentousness of that experience for me. They were deep into their own grief.

Five months later, our maternal grandmother died. I remember my sister Hilda crying bitterly in the arms of our mother while I stood across the room dumbfounded. My mother was crying as well. Still, there was no instruction on how to grieve without crying, without stumbling into my mother’s grief. Hilda, apparently, had no problem with it, but she was special…the only one of us born at home and seemingly our mother’s favorite.

When, three and half years later, Hilda died in a car crash, my mother was inconsolable. She never got over it. I felt so helpless. I remember wishing that it had been me who died believing Hilda would’ve been able to help her.

Now, fifty years after the assassination of John Firtzgerald Kennedy, I still grieve and cry alone.

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Religion!

Is this a caterpillar, or something else?

Religion!

Ahhhh! I know there are those of you who are very worried right now because you don’t have any idea what I’m about to write. Just stay with me for a little bit.

A while ago, I listened to a debate posted on NPR’s website and aired on 11/21/2011. The title of that debate was “Would the world be a better place without religion?”

Now, most of you don’t have to think about what the word “religion” means. Your set of values and beliefs are arranged nicely and neatly in your own minds and hearts. In the United States, that term most often involves a place for worship, a routine way of worshiping, a set of values or beliefs and a concept (however defined) of a supreme being that created and/or maintains our world and existence. I suppose that this is what was being debated on NPR. However, I cannot say so definitely as NO ONE bothered to define the word religion before or during the debate except for the pro-side which proclaimed that what was NOT being debated was the existence of such a supreme being and that one common aspect of all religious ideologies is that the structure of any religion affords sanctions against doubters or non-believers (“pagans” or “infidels”). That debate, I believe, has been on going since the dawn of recorded history! Now, if you want to listen to the debate on NPR, it will take you about 50 minutes of time when you go to NPR’s website. I’m not going to reiterate the points made for either side here.

Personally, I think it is a moot point, since there seems to have been no time in recorded history when there was no religion and, it could be argued, that humans are hard wired to have beliefs and values based on personal experiences, cultural and family training and an “us versus them” mentality. We look for the similarities and differences between us and “the other” to improve an assessment of danger. That’s the “hard-wired” part. What we do with those assessments, is NOT hard-wired. Consequently, the question leads one to wonder if the world would be a better place without humans.

In North America, if you’re walking in the forest and, in the distance, see a big, dark brown, apparently furry figure, it is appropriate to feel alarmed…most people would freeze, at least momentarily, until a better look can determine if it is a bear or a bush. If it is a bear, what kind of bear might be important to know in order to develop a suitable plan for response. For example, no matter what kind of bear, knowing that you are not capable of out running it will play a role in your survival. Knowing the difference between a brown bear or a grizzly bear gives you a chance to either make a lot of noise (brown bears are easily startled and tend to run away) or climb a sturdy tree (grizzlies, with their long claws, tend not to climb trees but can push over smaller trees). On the other hand, if you’re walking down a well traveled, well lit street in, say, Glendale, CA, and see a person wearing unusual clothing that marks them as an observer of a certain religious persuasion, is not automatically a cause for alarm. If the person is dressed differently from you, the momentary alarm (your amygdala in your brain) will begin to sound just as it did in the forest before you realized the distant figure was not a bear but a bush. So, what changed between the moment of uncertainty and relief from alarm? Recognition. You recognized the bush was not a bear and experienced relief. Recognition literally means thinking a second time. We fear the unknown for good reason. Once someone or something becomes known, our fear resolves to a certain extent. The more we know, the more options we have for responding to the world around us. What if you can’t tell by how one is dressed? Should you ask? Yes, ask YOURSELF, “where are the points of intersection between myself and this other?”

Interestingly, what we need to know more than anything or anyone else is ourselves as individuals: Inside and out, conscious and subconscious, good and bad, beliefs and doubts, peace-loving and angry, loving and hateful, spirit and body. Back to religion…my observation is this: religion is the natural, human outgrowth of our beliefs and values. Atheism is as much a religion as anything else. So is science. When you are truly comfortable in your values and beliefs, NO ONE’S other belief system is a threat to you. If your values and beliefs are not yet there, work it out within yourself. Trying to convince or coerce others that your religion is the one and only true religion is, in my mind, evidence that you have doubts. And, there is nothing wrong with having doubts. We are human beings living in a world of constant change. Doubt is natural. Balance is not something to achieve but something we play at from moment to moment. Like riding a bicycle, balance is best experienced while moving forward, not backward and not stationary. Your beliefs and values serve a purpose for you. Know what that purpose is, and you’ll know your purpose. Namesté.

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Turning Blue in Southern California

TURNING BLUE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Karen Nelson

CHAPTER 1

Volition: the faculty or power of using one’s will (Oxford Dictionary of English).

Some years ago, a gentleman, in conversation with me, insisted that he never sees, hears or touches anything that does not have a concrete presence in reality. Red is red. Blue is blue. Do re mi is do re mi, not fa ti la! Had I tried, I would have had no luck at all convincing him that his belief was a delusion!

No one (indeed, no living, breathing organism) sees, hears, touches, tastes or smells with the brain. The brain interprets electro-chemical impulses that arrive via nerve pathways for each of the five senses. In fact, the brain, under normal operation, is so efficient at its job, we don’t even recognize the nanoseconds of time for such interpretations. And even this pathway description is way too simplistic. It turns out that nerve pathways aren’t so cut and dried in their purpose. Neuroscientists have discovered that we can “see” with our tongues! And snakes, apparently, smell with their tongues.

So, everything in your mind is perception, not reality. Or rather, there is no reality outside of your perceptions. And, perception is, by definition, an interpretation of movement, of friction in space. As such, perceptions can be wrong…

What does this have to do with volition? Volition is NOT an all-or-nothing position. It is, at best, a potentiality depending on past and present circumstances for each individual.

Do you find that scary? Disturbing? Freaky? Well, let me just qualify all of this for you: while you may find your behaviors (both internal and external) not 100% of your own choosing, you ARE responsible for all of it, 100%. Taking responsibility for your life, for your thoughts, for your behavior, for your feelings while understanding that you aren’t entirely volitional in these things is, I think, what Dr. Brene` Brown calls “daring greatly.”

So, if you lay down in front of a doorway, do you have a legitimate complaint when people step on you? Perhaps not.

If, on the other hand, you are minding your Ps and Qs, acting respectfully of others and someone taps you on the shoulder and slaps you in the face when you turn around, do you then have a legitimate compliant? Perhaps.

No one that I know feels good about being stepped on or slapped. And, while you may not be culpable for what someone else does or does not do, you have a choice in how you respond to what someone else does or does not do. If nothing else, you have a responsibility to yourself to perceive your experiences in a way that allows you to survive and be well without denial, reprisals or shame.

That’s a hat trick! Much, much easier to say than to do. And, it’s a choice…until it isn’t any more.

So, at almost 62 years old, I’m really tired of fighting out with everyone and everything. In the immortal words of P!nk, “Just beam me up. Let me be lighter. I’m tired of being a fighter.” Working for a crazy governmental agency that cares not one wit for its employees if it sees no political gain in it; being willing to throw its employees under the bus for political gain; feeling like my “friends” really don’t care about me or what happens to me or support my endeavors; feeling truly alone and bereft of all human kindness really sucks, is not life affirming nor does it ever lead to growth. Neither does feeling sorry for myself. Yet, this is my default closely followed by anger.

To be honest, I don’t know how to get off of this f’in rollercoaster. It doesn’t feel good and brings more of the same. I went through something similar about five and a half or six years ago. Clearly, I didn’t learn an f’in thing. I feel stupid and incompetent. Talk about reprisals and shame; I’m deep into that hole. Reaching out to “friends,” not going to happen. They have their own problems and issues with which to deal. Clearly, one has to be on or close to death’s door for them to jump into action (this is BS. See * below). Don’t get me wrong, I greatly appreciate my close friends’ efforts in this regard. Some more so than others.

*And now, I must modify these statements about my friends. I must take responsibility for feeling alone. I have done that to myself. My friends did not do this to me. I did reach out and expressed verbally my current state of utter confusion, grief and anger. I feel listened to and heard. Thanks, my friends (by the way, this word Friend encompasses family as well).

The only thing I can think of doing, is to jump off the rollercoaster into space. That is, essentially, what I’ve done after finally recognizing the years of messages: I let go of my car, I’ve let go of my careers (the government agency job and my private practice) and downsized all of my expenses. Some ask, “What will you do?” At this point, I can only answer, “I don’t know.” I’m just waiting for another message from the Universe. I’m “waiting to exhale.”

And, it’s not easy…I feel like Muhammad Ali might have felt after he began showing signs of Parkinson’s Disease. He was a fighter all of his life in everything he did or didn’t do. Even his choice of a spiritual path shows that fighting spirit.

Me, too. Though I’m not a boxer nor attached to any religion, I’ve always fought out for my own rights and have, quite literally, stood up for the “little guy” as a child protective services worker. I spent the better part of my tenure working in that agency investigating allegations of abuse and neglect. I worked hard to NOT detain children from their families as the State, quite frankly, is not a good parent. I have to admit, though, the fact of someone (law enforcement) having that option was a great relief.

I was a union steward and picketed my bosses when necessary. At one point, I was the only worker walking the line for several hours with my boom box playing Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT and other songs that seemed pertinent to me and the situation. All that, while management came out to the parking lot to take photos of me, I’m guessing, to intimidate me. Didn’t work. The boom-box volume went up, and I danced that line.

Even as a child, I have many memories of fighting out against what I perceived as wrong. At seven years old, I wanted to be like Super Girl: strong, independent, fighting for justice against injustice and, of course, able to fly at will!

I learned early on in my childhood that being scared was a liability. Vulnerability was like having a target on your back. Two of my sisters risked the “wrath of mother” by shaming me into seeing a horror flick they wanted to see. It didn’t matter that they were five and six years older than I. What I couldn’t control was the resulting nightmares which is how our mother learned the truth. I don’t recall or, more likely never knew, what consequences they faced from the “wrath of mother.” I know that she beat my oldest sister with her shoe on the back some years earlier when I squealed about my sister slapping me in the face. I was about fours years old which made sister about sixteen. I felt horribly guilty. This is not to say that I never told on my sisters again. It did mean that I only told on them when I felt I had no defense. And my default defense was always anger.

And, for the most part, it worked for me. Or, at least, that was MY perception of this strategy. It came with a hefty price that I now realize I shouldn’t have paid. Over and over and over again. Now, I’m bankrupt. I have no more juice for any of it. I keep getting the message from the Universe, from Source, from the Creator, whatever you want to call it if anything. No matter in which direction I turn, the message is, “STOP!” Left, right, forward, back, “STOP!” “STOP!” “STOP!” “STOP!”

Fighting out is deeply ingrained into my identity. I don’t know who I am without my fight. Last week, another friend called me and asked me what I was doing at mid-day. I replied, “Nothing.” She, in an effort to be supportive commented, “Just taking it easy, huh?” I said, “No. I’m doing nothing and its NOT easy.” This is not to say that I am a human “doing” instead of a human being. I can do nothing with the best of them. I haven’t been bored since I was about eleven years old. Doing nothing isn’t the same as BEING nothing. And therein lays the rub. “The Fight” was my raison d’etre. Struggle, struggle, struggle. We come into this world struggling. Everything we do or don’t do, it seems, is designed to counter entropy. Friction will slow us to a stop if we don’t fight against it! Once you’re stopped, it’s harder to get going again, it takes more energy. The sweetest, most sublime music stems from friction, from this struggle against entropy.

We rail against the coming of that “good night,” against the wind or the current, always trying to get upstream. Just so we can feel alive. There must be something else. Some peace, satisfaction or happiness downstream. Once I figure out how to stop rowing upstream and allow whatever I want to be, once I find out what it all means, I’ll let you know, too. Until then, I’m still “waiting to exhale” and turning blue in Southern California.

“You live in a dream world of your creation. To find your way, discover your power, learn what matters.

There’s no room for guilt or doubt and little need for hesitancy or half measures.” Mike Dooley

“Even if you don’t have reason to be happy—make it up. Fantasize it. Make a decision that you’re going to be happy one way or another—no matter what.” —Abraham

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
Albert Einstein

The following is a brief time-line of the messages I have received in the last nine months or so from the Universe about my fighting out:

In late January, 2013, P3 workers (part-time and temporary) at Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) learned that, not only will we be fired and rehired every year like we had been beginning in the summer of 2010, but now there are new requirements: each P3 worker (75% of whom are retirees) must complete a psychological evaluation and medical assessment prior to rehire every year; for the psych eval, P3 workers would have to bring an updated resume` for the interviewer/psychologist. A number of P3 workers quit on the spot. Until this time, P3 workers, when they were released and then rehired, were done so in small groups of ten to fifteen making the process easier for all concerned and meant a loss of time of approximately 1 week. P3 workers were live-scanned prior to release so that all were approved for rehire (the older one gets, the more difficult it is for the live-scan machine to register one’s fingerprints). The first group exposed to the new process went through it in February, 2013. It wasn’t until April, 2013, when we learned that 72% of those workers were not rehired because they “failed” the psych eval. One P3 worker, who passed the eval was, nonetheless, demoted by these evaluators because his educational background didn’t fit with a higher grade. Another P3 worker flat out refused to go through the process citing DCFS policy that there are NO new hires hired as CSW IIIs or above. She was rehired without the psych eval. Because of this loop-hole in hiring policy, the department changed its procedure to exclude CSW IIIs and SCSWs (Cbildren’s Social Worker and Supervising Children’s Social Worker) from having to complete the psych eval and medical assessment. However, Personnel now required live-scan AFTER release and BEFORE rehire which, for many retirees, now stretched out the lost time from one month to as long as three months. They also required that everyone be released/rehired individually rather than in groups thus isolating the individual experience.

I began a process of complaint about this change of procedure by, first complaining to the P3 manager, then to my representative on the Board of Supervisors for L.A. County. Our manager was between a rock and a hard place: typical for DCFS, she was ordered to comply with Administration’s requirements of this process and yet also required to deal with the extreme fallout of workers quitting, others not being rehired, others complaining but going along with it and still others not being able to do any meaningful work on their cases due to long absences not of their making. My rep on the Board of Supervisors, Zev Yaroslavsky, apparently didn’t care that his county government was violating federal law.

Toward the end of April, 2013, I complained of age discrimination by the department to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a Federal Government agency sworn to make companies and government agencies comply with federal law. One week after I was interviewed by an investigator for the EEOC, I experienced a mild stroke. The interview had gone well, and I felt bouyed by the outcome. The stroke only affected my visual perception for part of my right eye. Nevertheless, after three months, I had to finally admit to myself that I am now visually impaired at least until my brain re-wires around the damage. It took me three times as long to read the records on my cases, and driving to an unknown location for home calls was very frightening. I worked a lot from home.

When, finally in August, 2013, my car died and I learned that the department was further seeking to isolate those who complained of age discrimination by offering unsolicited raises in pay for only retirees, I got the message from the Universe. Stop fighting.

There have been other messages from the Universe as well: concerning my private practice as a hypnotherapist and my inability to make it profitable enough to keep my office; having to learn about hypnosis and neuroanatomy in order to make a presentation to students at my former school in hypnotherapy BEFORE I had the stroke (!) in an effort to put myself out there for possible other teaching opportunities; applying for disability benefits and being turned down because DCFS does not contribute to social security for its employees; and other messages always about fighting out. I’m not at all saying that these messages against fighting out are for anyone else but me. And, I still don’t know where it will lead. I am willing to try anything, any suggestion once (like applying for social security disability) as long as I see it as potentially beneficial for me. If it doesn’t work, that’s when I give up the fight.

Back, again, to some other immortal words of P!nk: “I don’t feel like calming down, no I don’t. I don’t feel like hiding out, so I won’t. I can’t turn the volume down, so I sit here in this chaos and piss watching the storm passing. Storms are beautiful. Right here it’s beautiful, it is.”

CHAPTER 2

So, the answer to the conundrum, if a tree falls in the forest when no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound, is no, it does not make a “sound.” Sound is perceived and a brain interpretation. Therefore, if there are no brains with their sensory pathways to perceive it, there is no sound. This does not mean that there is no disturbance in air waves. Physics clearly supports this idea. Disturbances in air waves is what our physiology picks up and transmits to the brain for interpretation all things being equal. If there was a person in the forest who, say, is totally deaf, they would likely perceive this disturbance as a vibration in air or ground (depending on the size of the tree and how close the person was). That person’s presence, assuming he/she was conscious at the time, would give credence to the “sound” vibrations the brain may then interpret.

Why in the hell am I writing about trees falling in the forest? Our presence as sentient beings in this world makes a difference. Just being present and witnessing life events changes those events, making them sensible if nothing else. But, to what end? Well, one of the finest minds we’ve ever known, Albert Einstein, said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Is that true? Can we really change events simply by changing how we look at them? In some ways, yes, in other ways , no. Ignoring reality does not make it disappear. I don’t believe we can change the fact of the fallen tree in the forest. Way back in the pre-history of our country, a sizeable meteor fell to Earth in the northern desert of present day Arizona. Geologists believe this event happened some 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era long before, it is believed, that humans inhabited the area. It wasn’t even a desert at the time. We can pretend this event never happened since there was no one around to witness it. Nevertheless, the presence of the crator leaves us wondering about its origin.

In May of this year, when I experienced an ischemic stroke to my left occipital lobe, the doctor in the emergency room told me this is what they discovered through the miriad of tests they ran on me. I know this is what he told me for two reasons: a friend was with me at the time and heard the conversation, and I immediately called my sister in Arizona and informed her thusly. Nevertheless, some time in the hours or days after that conversation, my mind distorted the information and reduced the diagnosis to a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Transient being the operative word meaning temporary with little or no permanent damage. I clung to that distortion for better than two weeks before I was disabused of it in my first appointment with a neurologist. I didn’t like the neurologist, but this isn’t why. He did nothing to find out who I am and gave me no hope for recovery even when I asked about neuroplasticity and rewiring around the damage (clearly showing an acceptance of the true diagnosis). His statement was, “That takes years. Now let me prescribe for you this medication that works to prevent a second stroke, a blood thinner.” I took the prescription but never filled it since its own website described some side effects like memory problems and confusion. While I don’t know who I am right now without my fight, I do know that I am nothing without a working brain. I went back to him a month later, told him that I refused to take his medication and why and challenged him to test my blood to see if my over-the-counter supplements were doing what is necessary. He refused by lying claiming there was no such test and insisted that I had only two choices, aspirin (I am allergic) or his prescribed meds. I had a third choice, I said goodbye.

My point is this: distorting the reality to make a diagnosis more palatable did not change my reality any more than the neurologist distorting the truth changed my mind. I am fairly certain that he did what he did out of an ethic to fight against death at all costs. This would likely be his way of keeping his oath to “first, do no harm.” But, without knowing who I am and what is important to me and MY life, he cannot adequately assess “no harm.”

Now, back to what we CAN change. I could see that neurologist as old, as rigid and as a product of a learning machine (medical school) that finds it difficult to accept its failures. In this case, a huge failure to appreciate the wonder and flexibility of the human brain and it’s outcome, the human mind, until about ten or fifteen years ago. The information was out there all along in anecdotal stories. But, because they couldn’t really SEE the changes and damage before death and only SAW the unhealed damage after death, the neurological community clung to the belief that the brain is fixed by age 22 or so, does not repair its damage and is set in stone. They clung to that belief much like I clung to the distorted diagnosis of a TIA. I suspect that the old way of viewing the brain is what that neurologist was yet clinging to as well. I can do nothing to change his mind.

There is an old joke: what is the difference between God and doctors? God doesn’t think He’s a dostor! My own personal belief is this: no doctor is any MORE a god than I am. I prefer to believe that the placebo effect is not an anomaly, a mistake to avoid in medical research. It is evidence in support of the idea that, even with all of their schooling and experience and knowledge about the machine workings of the human body, doctors have no idea of how the human mind can find extraordinary ways to heal the body. They refuse to acknowledge the “ghost in the machine.” Ghost in this sense refers to the human spirit, the power of the human mind and belief system over which doctors have NO CONTROL! Many (but certainly not all) M.D.s, D.O.s and D.C.s find that idea very scary. It seems to fly in the face of all they know, all they’ve ever been taught and all they believe. And, if the face of neurology can change so dramatically in just the last ten or fifteen years, perhaps doctors’ knowledge and understanding of the machine workings of the human body is not as complete and final as they want to believe.

Do I believe that I can repair the damage to my brain done by an ischemic stroke? The evidence so far suggests that I cannot undo that damage. However, there is much evidence that I can help my brain rewire around it, that I can, in time, recover my brain’s ability to fully interpret the input from my sensory organ, my right eye. So, I will.

Can I change the sequence of events and messages that lead me here? No. I cannot change what happened. I CAN change HOW I see it. I can change what it all means and be open to whatever new experiences are in store for me. I CAN focus my energies to pinpoint what I want for myself in this life once I figure that out! There’s a psychological axiom: you tend to find what you’re looking for. To the extent that this is true, I’m going to look for what I want and expect to see that within whatever configuration it appears. It is all in process. I still find myself ruminating about how things could be different. In order to do that, I have to focus on what is or what has been. Nothing is likely to change that way. I can only allow myself to acknowledge and, to a certain extent, honor this for what it is, my former strategy to protect myself from pain or hurt. At one time, it did work otherwise, I would never have adopted it as
a strategy. It has not worked well for quite some time. Time now to adopt a new one.

CHAPTER 3

Bet you thought I was done. Ha! Gotcha!

The last chapter ended with a note about time. Now, I have to talk about Time — it is such an interesting phenomenon to me. More than just a weekly magazine, and much less than we care to know, Time does not exist outside of our perception. Yes, humans can make an instrument that, for a while, accurately measures time passing. And our brains carry the thread of our experience from one moment of consciousness to the next. But what does that even mean? Here, on the planet Earth, in an eight or nine planetary system in the “back water” of the Milky Way, we accept that there are 60 seconds in every minute, 60 minutes in every hour, 24 hours in every day, seven days in every week, approximately 30 days in every month, 12 months in every year, 365 days to every year which is how long it takes for our Earth to revolve around the primary star in our system…wait, that’s not entirely correct. The Earth does not revolve around the Sun in a perfect circle. It, like all of our planets, travels in an elliptical configuration. Consequently, the Earth takes approximately 365 and 1/4 days around the Sun, and every four years, in order to acknowledge that course of “time,” we add a day to the end of February, our shortest month. What?!!! Oh, dear. Another damn conundrum! This is not to mention that RIGHT NOW, in Australia, it is tomorrow! So, how old are you? How old would you be on Mars? Or Venus? And how could anyone adequately measure the age of the Sun never mind the Universe?

All right, enough time spent on Time! As you may imagine from the previous chapters, I have a point. I just have to organize my thoughts…Back in April, 2013, when I filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (a federal agency) against DCFS for violating the law against age discrimination, I was advised that the EEOC had a time limit of 120 days to investigate and come to some kind of decision about the complaint. That time limit is rapidly coming to a close this month. However, as far as I know, with the Republican Party holding our government hostage over a law (that the Supreme Court has deemed constitutional) because they don’t like it, I’m guessing that the EEOC is on full furlough. After all, the EEOC is not vital to our nation’s defense. Okay, I just called the investigator on my “case,” and the recording confirmed that the EEOC is closed for business until further notice (as of 10/3/2013). I have no idea what this means in terms of that time limit. It may mean that the complaint is dead in the water. I don’t know, and I can’t effect it one way or another. I do know that since I filed that complaint, DCFS has done some backpedaling. So it, perhaps, made a difference. And, I have no way of knowing what effect my resignation had on the cases I had or might have been assigned. On the one hand, this makes me very sad. On the other hand, I know the people who remain part of that program and know they all have, at heart, the best interests of their charges. I cannot ask for anything more. I’m learning to let go of that part of my identity, too.

On 9/30/2013, my private practice in hypnotherapy and my office where I practiced closed down. In mid-September, I took the bus to my then office and began the process of closing it. I already had and understood the message of Stop Fighting Out. Nevertheless, the process of closing down something I truly enjoyed, hurt which made me angry, my default. When I was done for that day, I walked back to the bus station to go home. As I walked, feeling royally pissed, I kept to the right of the sidewalk just as we do while driving in the U.S. to give plenty of room to people walking the opposite direction. I first noticed this guy walking in my direction when he was about 100 yards away. He was, perhaps, half my age, two or three inches taller (which means, in our culture, that he was a short man), shaved head, and buff. I also noticed that, initially he began to move out of my path, then veered back and squared himself directly into my path as we approached eachother. This little game of “walking chicken” brought my anger to full steam though I showed none of it. I purposely kept my face impassive and maintained my path. He couldn’t know what was in my mind, that my intention was, if he bumped me in any substantial way, he would end up on his ass before he could say, “Whoa.” At the last possible second, he veered to his right (and my left) his seemingly empty backpack just grazing my arm. I kept walking, never saying a word and not looking back. I don’t know what he did except that he never said a word either. I initially felt powerful and good that I focussed the energy of my anger to “stand my ground.”

When I thought about this event later, it occurred to me this was a lost opportunity to not fight out, that I was absolutely stupid in doing what I did. While he couldn’t know what was on my mind, neither could I know what was on his mind. I couldn’t know if he had a gun or a knife or was an MMA fighter. I put my life in jeopardy for a “right.” I was reminded of an epitaph written on a tombstone somewhere in New England, “This is the grave of Mike O’ Day who died defending his right of way. His way was right, and his will was strong. But, he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.” Holy crap! I knew then that I still had a ways to go in this new process.

Finally, in the last week of September, 2013, I found myself ruminating about the dysfunction of DCFS as run by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and decided to write it out in an effort to discharge the negative energy. I did some research on Google about the history of DCFS and its many directors. I found an interesting piece on how the ACLU was successful suing the BOS over problems DCFS had in its abusive process at Mac Laren Children’s Center. Mac, as we called it, was temporary housing for dependent minors awaiting appropropriate placement in foster care or with relatives. The ACLU’s success in the Katie A. case caused the BOS to precipitously close down Mac without any provisions to replace it much like then California Governor, Ronald Reagan did when he closed down most of California’s mental hospitals. While the outcome of closing down Mac brought about many more problems that I believe the ACLU couldn’t have foreseen, I decided to focus only on their success. I turned my writing into a letter addressed to the Children’s Rights department of the ACLU recommending they sue the BOS over the right to place on the ballot a change to the County Charter changing a political appointment of Director of DCFS to an elected position. I sent off the letter with the intent that this would be my last attempt to encourage a change for the positive in the DCFS culture. I don’t know if this will do anything and, quite frankly, will not follow it further. The fact that I found the information so easily including the address of the local chapter of the ACLU suggested to me this was not an incident of fighting out as long as I commit to no further demonstration.

This last sentence might sound odd or slightly superstitious, but this is part of what I’ve noticed in my process of late. I already explained what happens when I try something I think may be beneficial to me and experience a stumbling block. I walk away believing it an opportunity to stop fighting out. This last effort regarding DCFS only benefits me as a way of discharging remnants of frustration and anger. Sending it off to the ACLU is a sign of hope for our future. Continuing that fight is nothing but an effort to hold onto the frustration and anger. And who needs that? Well, some people might say that anger and frustration are a little better than depression and melancholy. Frustration and anger represent more energy and less entropy. There’s truth in that statement, and the changes some might see in my behavior might look like depression to some. I am not depressed or melancholic. Depression is marked by a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. That is one hole I’m not in right now! For those who are, I agree with the witicism of Will Rogers (no, not Trigger’s cowboy!) who said, “When you find yourself in a hole, the thing to do is stop diggin’.” And, from that hole, getting “royally pissed” can be the first step out of it as long as the energy is focussed outwardly and positively. Facing off against some short, angry stranger on the street, not a good example!

Many years ago, in my most stupid mid-twenties, I got myself into a relationship with a married man. Not my proudest moment, I know, I know. When it became clear that he was using this situation to play me off against his wife, I, initially felt helpless. My therapist asked a simple, but very important question, “Where’s your anger?” Because I was wrong to be in such a relationship in the first place, I didn’t believe I had any right to anger. When I finally got in touch with my anger, I wrote him a letter (starting to see the pattern?). I accused him of pretending to be a prince gathering a harem of water lillies when in reality, he was just a frog. And frogs don’t know how to treat water lillies. All they do is sit on them, shit on them and move on to another. I sent off the letter and let him go. Then, I focussed that energy into getting an education and getting on with my life. I never again involved myself with him or any other married man. This is a good example of digging out of the hole of depression.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene` Brown lists several of the “great unravelings” of life, a time “when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and embrace who you are.” Her list includes mid-life, marriage, divorce, becoming a parent, recovery, moving, an empty nest, retirement, experiencing loss or trauma and working in a soul-sucking job! This last one made me wonder if she knows about DCFS. She goes on to say, “The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.” Amen to that!

Now, I am beginning to exhale!

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The Problem with the Repulican Party

The Law of Abundance which works through the art of allowing (according to Abraham-Hicks and other publications) says that if you are in alignment with your desires, the Universe or God or whatever you call it will provide you with your desires. Out of 120,000,000 votes cast on November 6, 2012, 2,000,000 votes separated the winner of the presidency from the loser. So, what happened? The Republican pundits are blaming everyone and everything on this loss: it’s voter fraud, it’s super storm Sandy, it’s the Electoral College, it’s the influx of minority voters, it’s…

Doing my best to put aside my personal biases, here is my understanding of what happened: in January, 2009, Republicans in Congress made a big mistake. They decided that President Obama would serve only one term and, in order to effect that, they would refuse to work with him and Democrats. After having taken an oath of office in which they swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, to protect it from all enemies, foreign and domestic, they effectively labeled themselves as the enemy. And, for the next three plus years, they reinforced that internal conflict over and over again. Then, their standard bearers, in November, 2011, began spreading that conflict by blaming Democrats and President Obama for the Republican’s failure to cooperate. When someone extends a hand in the spirit of cooperation and you refuse to take it, who’s failure is that? Many progressives, during that three plus years, complained about President Obama, that he was too conciliatory toward the Republican house, that he kept extending his hand across the aisle while Republicans refused to take his hand. Nevertheless, President Obama was able to accomplish many things in spite of the obstructionists.

Just prior to the election, Republican pundits expressed confidence that they would win across the board while, at the same time, threatening that, if they lost, the Republican Party would cease to be.
Putting aside my belief that the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln, of Nelson Rockefeller, of Barry Goldwater died in 1980 and was buried in 1989 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Republican Party has failed, has imploded under the weight of conflicting interests which have no place in this democracy: plutocrats, religious fundamentalists, and right-wing, intolerant crazies. All of these conflicting interests espouse the traditional Republican ideal of small government leaving people to locally work out their differences while, at the same time, championing extreme governmental intrusion into the private lives of its citizens and big defense spending. This does not even consider the anti-minority, anti-women stance of many within those interests. Look at the Republican Party’s responses to Todd Akin/Richard Mourdock on the one hand, and to Chris Christie on the other. Todd Akin stated his rationalization for anti-choice in the case of rape was that, “legitimate rape” would not produce a pregnancy. Mourdock rationalized his stance that, if a pregnancy resulted from a rape, then it must be God’s plan. After some hiccoughs from the Republican Party, they fully supported these ideas publicly. Chris Christie spoke at the Republican Convention, was highly touted by Republicans for his leadership in a State (New Jersey) that was surrounded by a Democratic stronghold UNTIL he praised President Obama for the president’s response to super storm Sandy. Now, he’s persona non grata to the Republican Party.

This is the set up for the Republican internal conflict: if you are a woman, or if you support the Constitution of the United States’ ideal of separation of Church and State, or if you support a woman’s right to choose her beliefs, or, God forbid, if you can see the positive in people having differing viewpoints yet wish to look for the commonalities in a spirit of cooperation, then DON’T SPEAK IT publicly. All throughout his campaign, Mr. Romney blamed the president for his lack of bi-partisanship while knowing that it was the Republican members of congress who refused to take the president’s extended hand. In the waning days of his campaign, Mr. Romney tried to claim in Ohio that the auto industry bailout was unimportant while also claiming that the president took that auto industry into bankruptcy. Mr. Romney floated the idea of privatizing FEMA. When super storm Sandy hit the east coast causing wide-spread destruction in multiple States, he refused to answer any questions about privatizing FEMA. I believe this conflict is why Romney often appeared as if he were an octopus on roller skates, and why the Republican candidate lost both Electoral College and popular votes.

Now, back to the Law of Abundance and the art of allowing: if you have a desire and that desire is opposed by conflicting thoughts and beliefs, then you have effectively blocked the desire’s manifestation. If you have a desire and there are no internal conflicting messages, then your desire will be. This is true for everyone: rich, poor, powerful, weak, enfranchised, disenfranchised, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Peace & Freedom Party member, Green Party member. Romney was an extremely successful business man because he had no internal conflict about what he did. Saddam Hussein held his dictatorship for forty plus years because he had no internal conflict about what he did. Abraham Lincoln succeeded in winning the Civil War and passing the 13th Amendment because he had no internal conflict with his beliefs. Our judgments about these people and actions have no effect at all. Our judgments about ourselves both conscious and sub-conscious will have an effect on what we can achieve. Do what makes you happy and allow that to have whatever effect it has on others. You cannot change what others believe or the path on which they walk, the path they create for themselves. You CAN speak your truth and you CAN speak truth to power if being heard is what makes you happy. You CAN extend your hand to someone on a lower rung, but you CAN”T make them take it. I have a friend who is fond of saying, “It is what it is.” I would say, “It is what you make it based on your internal alignment or lack thereof.” Look at your most cherished beliefs and either bring your desires and actions into alignment with them (ALL of them) or change those beliefs that are in conflict (easier said than done and possible).

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Energy Enhancement

Can you enhance your energy? The answer is yes.

First and foremost is to make sure you are in good health or, at least, moving in that direction. You can make it better by eating what are called “live foods” like fruit and vegetables while avoiding energy thiefs such as refined sugars and processed foods. Why are refined sugars and proceessed foods energy thiefs? Generally, these foods rob your body of the ability to digest and therefore utilize the nutrients contained in foods. Your body is perfectly designed to grab necessary enzymes and minerals needed for living. Refined and processed foods contain few of these naturally occuring nutrients and yet require the body to digest with little or no benefit. It is like filling your gas tank with muddy gas.

On your way to eating better and living better physically, you will help the process even more by daily, for five to ten minutes, turning your attention inward. It helps if you do this at the beginning of your day and take brief notes. Observe your thought processes for that short period of time. Make a note of the general tenor of your thoughts such as fear or lack-based thoughts, negative or positive, pessimistic or optimistic thoughts about the day ahead. Then, no matter what your thoughts are, take a moment or two to reach for “better-feeling thoughts,” thoughts that lead to a better state of being. For example, you might find yourself thinking about the pleasure you received when you were recently acknowledged for a job well-done. That is fairly positive, no? Make it even more so by imagining how it will be when you are acknowledged on a consistent basis for your efforts. Allow yourself to experience the full emotion of that prospect. Do this process daily for no less than three weeks. What this can do for you is it changes your habitual and therefore subconscious tendency to stick with only what it knows. If your thoughts are generally negative in tenor, your subconscious mind spends much of its free time searching for evidence to support that tenor. Thus, one tends to find what one is looking for. And, your subconscious mind is picking up obvious and very subtle clues that your conscious mind may not notice: a brief smile, a change in how people react to your presence (never mind what you do).

Try this out and let me know what you observe about your energy level at the end of the day.

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Emotional Blocks

I will be using this space to address problems that hypnotherapy and its many modalities can readily dispel. Help with things such as fears, phobias, habit control, smoking cessation, weight loss, pre- and post- surgery hypnosis are widely known. Nevertheless, there are over 100 issues that a hypnotherapist can ease. Watch for and read this blog every Wednesday to learn about those one at a time.

Emotional blocks are fairly common. When I was in my mid-twenties, I experienced a situation with someone to whom I felt fairly close. This person was “family” in my mind. Nevertheless, when this incident happened, I felt totally betrayed in that relationship and was infuriated. So much so that I sat in my car pummeling the car’s steering wheel wishing it were that person’s face. It seemed as though all of the injustices I had ever experienced up until that point in my life were projected into that steering wheel. I was so shocked by the intensity of the feelings, that, in a short period of time (a few hours), I shut them all down. Talk about an emotional block…

Many emotional blocks do not have such a dramatic and clear-cut cause. Writers can experience such blocks. A blank page can lead to a blank mind! Of course, a wonderfully prepared and rehearsed performance dries up in the face of an emotional block. Sales persons can experience emotional blocks–flat affect can kill any sale. And, as my friend Robb Lichtman puts it, “We are ALL sales people of one kind or another.”

Most people have no clear idea of where their blocks come from. The beauty of hypnotherapy is that, it isn’t always necessary to discover the source of an emotional block in order to effect change. Oftentimes, knowing that every behavior (positive or negative) has, at the core level of being, a positive intention for the person doing the behavior can be the catalyst for very quick and permanent change.

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Questions for Siri

I don’t have an iPhone 4s, but I’ve been having fun watching YouTube videos on how the iPhone 4s world is responding to Apple’s newest spokesperson, Siri. Siri is an automated voice assistant on iPhone 4s. In the US the default voice is feminine (in the UK, Siri’s voice is masculine). So I have asked some people I know who have the 4s to ask Siri these two questions:

“Siri, Where were you born?”
Siri is likely to answer this question saying something about being made near San Francisco by Apple.

Now ask, “Siri, if Apple is a fruit, and you were made by Apple, does that mean you are edible?”

Here are Siri’s responses sent from one of my playmates:

Answers to Question #1

“Wherever you are, that’s where I am.”
“I’m not allowed to say.”
“I’m right here.”

and Answers to Question #2

“I don’t really like these arbitrary categories.”
“I am?”

Clearly, Siri doesn’t know how to have fun, but her lack of knowledge makes me laugh!

Of course, some of her responses lead to more questions such as, why is Siri not allowed to say where she was born? Is someone holding her tail (er, tale)? And then there is the inexplicable way in which Siri uses sarcasm with few contextual clues.

Owner to Siri: “Knock, knock.”
Siri to Gordon (owner): “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Gordon. Gordon who? Gordon doesn’t play knock, knock jokes.”

I viewed a video on Youtube where Siri was talking to another Siri which made me wonder if Siri is blond! They seemed to really confuse each other. Although, it is possible that the human pushing the send button got confused as to which 4s resonded last! No blond there, just a guy. Oh. That explains it! Guys often have trouble following the gist of female conversation!

It’s a good thing I don’t have an iPhone 4s, I think. I would probably spend my days thinking of new questions to ask or new ways to interact with her. Then I might lose brain cells which would make me forget I have a Daddy! Who’s YOUR Daddy? If you’re in the UK, it might be Siri!

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Taciturn

Taciturn: Merriam-Webster’s definition is “Temperamentally disinclined to talk.” (emphasis theirs). I would add to that definition: “Temperamentally disinclined to talk or communicate” (emphasis mine) thanks to the “social media” site, Twitter which limits written communication to 140 keystrokes, each character in a word, plus punctuation and spaces.

I recently received an email from an IT guy. In the subject line he wrote, “Please contact me for your ticket 972655” In the body of the email he politely wrote, “Thank you so much. Richard” That was it – no explanation as to what more he wanted from me. So, I replied, “You’re welcome so much. Karen. P.S. I’m thinking this ticket was resolved as I cannot Refresh my memory.”

A little while later, another email from Richard this time in the body of the email, “Hi, [comma] Karen. [period] This issue: [colon] user able to authenticate with RSA [Remote Security Access] token, [comma] after authenticating the user gets this page cannot be displayed. [period] Thanks. [period]”

I mention the punctuation because this email amounts to a Twitter response: 136 keystrokes! I still don’t know what he wants. He has not asked a question. So, I confirmed that the issue had been resolved and asked if there was any additional information he needed from me.

I waited about 30 minutes. No response, which, I suppose, in Twitter terms, is an answer.

I was undaunted! I replied again to the last email I received from Richard, “Dear Richard, I’m guessing that there was no further info you needed from me. However, you seem so taciturn, that I’m beginning to suspect that you have a sister named Siri! Not a criticism, just an observation.” K ;>)
Too long for Twitter.

This reminds me of part of a YouTube video:

Ramsey: “Siri, who’s your Daddy?”

Siri: “You are, Ramsey. Now, can we get back to work?”

Ramsey: “Siri, will you marry me?”

Siri: “You have the wrong assistant.”

Taciturn.

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The Desert

The Desert
by Karen Nelson, December, 2007

Sun-heated air shimmers in the Mid of Day
Birds and animals no longer play — too hot
The broad-leafed cactus is bespeckled with thorns
(aegis meant for all except the desert birds).
Deep between the iron red rock
of the Sonoran desert, the prickly pear
grows on the leaf tip looking a bit like
an errant racket ball.
The fruit, worthy of the birds’ efforts
tastes like…
Chicken? Nah. Tastes like Melon — mild and cool
contrasted with the heat of this arid land.
A weathered, native hand would harvest
everything — the fruit to eat
(a delightful desert dessert),
the leaves for meal,
the juice for water.
Cactus spirit is pleased
as nothing went to waste —
There are starving children in India, you know.
Still? Seriously!
The Cactus Wren pokes a hole into the barrel-shaped, brick-red fruit to drink its fill.
The Costa’s Hummingbird, nearly still,
got there first through the yellow-flowered top.
Clouds gather and darken the sandy soil
by blocking the sunlight.
Birds and rabbits and prairie dogs
scamper and fight for safety under the bush
Just before the rain, the shadow of the peregrine
is nearly invisible and impossible to feel
Snakes and lizards come out on the previously
sun-soaked rocks warming their bodies,

A sacrificial offering to the falcon’s meal.

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I am an Arachniphobe

I am an Arachniphobe!
By Karen Nelson, M.A., CHt

That is a fear of spiders. And I should probably not admit this so close to Halloween.

I’m not always afraid of spiders.
If they are where they belong – outside – I have no fear of them (of course, unless one is crawling on me!). In fact, I am fascinated and admiring of their architectural abilities. Can you imagine building your home from something coming out of your belly button???
And, of course there are the folk tales from Ghana, Africa about Anansi, the trickster spider. He is very self-involved and greedy always trying to get more without adequate compensation.

In spite of these ideas, my fear has kept me from seeing the movie “Arachniphobia” and Charlotte’s Web has never interested me.

The first time I became aware of this fear was when I was about 4 ½ years
old. I am the youngest of four girls. Late one night two of my sisters woke me up from a sound sleep. Our parents were arguing very loudly in the living room. My sisters told me to go into the living room to find out what it was all about.
Now, I am 4 years old and have a very limited vocabulary. These two sisters
were 5 and 6 years older than me (so, 9 and 10). I don’t know what they were thinking, and I was probably thinking something like that as I made my way
down the hall. As I got closer and closer to the living room, I heard only one
voice yelling, my mother’s, and I got more and more scared of the anger behind her voice to the point where I couldn’t understand even one word of what she was saying. I looked back toward the bedroom wanting to return to my safe bed. My sisters were peaking out from behind the door and urged me on leaving me no choice – I knew they wouldn’t let me back in until I had accomplished the mission. They had no idea I was suffering from some kind of aphasia at that moment.

When I finally emerged into the living room, what I saw didn’t seem to match
the loud noise coming from my mother’s mouth. I expected her to be up,
moving around and wildly gesticulating with her arms and hands. The living room was lit by two low-wattage lamps. My mother was sitting in a dining room chair, leaning forward as if she were whispering, but screaming at my father who was seated on the couch, not saying a word, head hanging down. I don’t know how long I stood there before they noticed me. I only know that, at
some point, my mother escorted me back to bed (my sisters pretended to
be asleep), tucked me in and left the room. That night my mother kicked out my father. He never again lived with us, and we never saw him.

It may have been later that night or a night or two later that I suddenly
feared there were spiders under the sheets crawling up to get me.
Why spiders? Spiders build their own homes, for god’s sake. My home, that
night, had been destroyed figuratively and literally, it turns out. I wouldn’t
find out until I was well into adulthood that my father, who was an obsessive
compulsive gambler, had secretly taken out a second mortgage on our
house by forging my mother’s name and then gambled away all the money.

This didn’t really surprise me when I found out. The story had long been told of the night I was born. My father was somewhere in Gardena, California, playing poker (and losing) while my mother’s life hung in the balance. It turns out that, after I was born, she was hemorrhaging badly and needed emergency surgery. The medical personnel couldn’t find him to sign the consent forms. My mother’s sister had to rush to the hospital to sign the consent forms.

My mother obviously survived my father’s Anansi-like behaviors that night. Later on her marriage and our house did not.

Hypnotherapy works with just these kinds of fears or phobias. A fear comes from an actual experience of something threatening to the self or life. A phobia usually has no direct connection with an event. Sometimes it seems to come from out of no where.

Now, arachniphobia has not really affected my ability to function in the world. But, believe me, if it had or if I suffered from another kind of phobia that prevented me from functioning in the world, I would definitely seek out my own services!

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