A million other you’s :

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I’m struggling to achieve a tenured position in a very difficult field- classical music. I have been working as a freelancer for many years, but most of the time, I had to work a technical job in order to pay the bills and have any type of security. Last year, I left the job and instead of trying to find another one, I decided to give the tenure one last shot. I know that this is my last chance; I’m in my mid-forties.

The biggest problem I have is emotional- I try not to get bitter when other musicians who don’t have nearly the experience I do, defeat me in final auditions.
I will deliver what I know is a technically perfect performance, yet I am ignored by the people who are in the position to hire. Many of the musicians who have secured full time permanent jobs with benefits are older than I am, so it can’t just be age.

I live alone and I get zero support from my parents, and I think this is part of the missing piece. I believe in myself, but it is all a struggle. The musicians I see in the symphonies have a natural self-confidence, and that I feel missing. I believe in myself but I wish someone else would too.

I need to get some joy into my playing but I am drowning in bitterness. I feel that I’m never going to succeed if I can’t get over this problem.
Any suggestions that don’t involve years of therapy? I don’t have the funds or the time for it.

Stan Musical

Dear Stan,

I know a number of musicians who are in the same situation that you are. Many of them have given up music completely for other fields that have better prospects. You might be the most gregarious man alive and it might not make a lick of difference when it comes to obtaining your goal. Unfortunately there are hundreds of people applying for very few positions. It is the same for tenured positions in every field. Taking it personally will only get you a trip to the hospital with heart failure or a stroke.

Sure, it is always a good idea to be personable but the world doesn’t necessarily reward hard work and steady effort as we all were told. There are a million other musicians who want the same thing and put forth the same or more effort. The world rewards creativity and flash. If you do something entirely different, such as develop a U-tube video that’s catchy and cool and goes viral, you might get your position. You would be known and being known matters. It doesn’t hurt to take “this last stab” but if it doesn’t pan out don’t take it personally and make music your love and hobby and get a steady paying job in some other area of music or something else.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: there’ve been a lot of assumptions made here, and a great deal of misunderstanding. First, let me clear this up: Youtube is not going to help Stan. Viral, catchy and cool is great if you have an idiosyncratic musical style and want a cult following. It won’t help you land a permanent job in a classical orchestra. Those are elite positions that are grounded in artistry and an incredible number of hours of playing. Classical music is never an overnight sensation. There can be as many politics involved as with a campaign for the presidency.

There’s another matter I must address. Here’s something that non-artists just don’t understand- there is a HUGE difference between someone who “enjoys” playing music or creating art, and a true, driven artist. It’s like the difference between an occasional babysitter who likes playing with kids, and a full time mom. Telling a true artist to put their drive aside for practical reasons is pointless. You would be better off spending your time trying to convince a gay guy that he should marry a woman and forget about men because his life will be easier. Don’t waste your breath! We each are what we are, and different things matter to each of us. Yes, someone who is a hobbyist or play-for-fun musician can let it go, get the job, and dabble in their spare time. But a true artist, someone who has that strong relentless drive, would rather die. The so-called practical “security” which Dr. B describes would be like a coffin to them. It has no value or meaning. I can’t think of a more sure fire road to alcoholism, addiction and depression. In my book, a guy who is in his mid-forties and single has already come to understand that safe and normal is not his goal. There is a voice in your head that will not be quieted. You know who you are. Go down fighting.

But I think I understand what your problem is, and what is holding you back, Stan. You are thinking that the natural self-confidence you observe in the stars of your profession is an aspect of personality. It is not. Pay attention. It’s not simply that they play well…it’s that their art has become such a part of them, they forget they are even playing. There is nothing but the music, and they are carried by it. They are not self-confident; they have passed beyond their mere selves. This is the place that you have to get to if you want to be at the top of the classic field and land a coveted spot in an elite orchestra. You have to be so good that you forget yourself. Right now, that’s all you can think of- your limitations, the guys who beat you, and the handicaps that are holding you back. Forget that crap. Just get to be that good.

If you try and fail, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you you’re good enough to have had steady freelance work, you are already better than most people would even dream of being. There are smaller ponds where you can be the big fish. If you try for the top and fail, you are still so much further along because of that effort. And if what you really love is to play, trust me…people will always recognize your quality.

You have my blessing to go charge at those windmills.

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Baby you were born to run:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I feel angry just about all the time. I’m seventeen and my parents keep treating me like I’m a kid and acting like they are the authority on everything just because they are older. In the meantime, they act like idiots- secretive habits, lying, and bad decisions right and left. But they get to tell me what to do because legally I’m not an adult yet.

OK, so all of that makes me angry and then my parents accuse me of being sullen and withdrawn and now they want to force me to go to therapy. I don’t need therapy. My friend Jim went to therapy and they insisted on putting him on antidepressants and now he’s like a zombie. I just need to get out of this house so that I don’t have to deal with their hypocrisy. My mom drinks and I’m pretty sure my dad is fooling around because he never comes home.

I applied to four colleges and didn’t get accepted at three, now I have my fingers crossed waiting for the last reply. I’ll get a job and figure it all out later if I have to. How do I get out of here without getting my brain screwed with even more? I have nine full months before I reach eighteen.

Uneven Steven

Dear Steven,

It is not just the cards we’re dealt but how we play the game that matters. Sometime we get crappy cards. That is nothing we can do anything about. But that handicap can also be used as motivation to learn how not to make the same mistakes. Many teens look at their parent’s lives and say, “holly crap!” But your parents were probably thinking that about their own parents when they were your age. Unless you learn new skills, change your assumptions and let go of the anger, you could end up like they did, with your kids saying the same things about you. The only way to make life better is to live a better life.

Psychiatry today says that addiction and other psychological disorders are all genetics and you’re shit out of luck. I think that’s B.S. Humans learn through role modeling so the skills you currently have will steer you towards your parents’ life. That isn’t genetic, and there are no medications that will fix that. If you want something better, find role models who got it right. Counseling might help if you learn to ask good questions. If you really can’t get beyond your feelings, medication can help you tone them down. Yes, go to college and live there! But don’t drink, drug, or smoke pot as the deck is already stacked against you. According to AA, people, places and things matter. Find people and activities that challenge your mind set, not feed into it. It is not easy to change the script you were born into. It takes courage, humility, integrity, persistence and patience. Good luck. Many fail, but if you keep asking good questions you have a fighting chance. I suggest that you read: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. It sums this all up well.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: My sister is always angry. I realize it’s because she has emotional disorders, but at the same time, I don’t like being in the same room with her. I can’t talk with her easily, laugh or make jokers. She jumps on innocent remarks I make and decides I am making jabs at her when in fact I meant nothing of the kind.

The problem with being angry all the time is that it alters the emotional charge in everyone around you. Whether you have a legitimate reason or not, anger is a very destructive emotion to those who carry it. Anger draws other anger, for anger always both invites and seeks a target. The best reason to get your anger under control is because it is going to screw up your life if you don’t and it is going to repel good energy from ever reaching you.

Your parents may be idiots, but Dr. Brilliant is right. They probably started out thinking their own parents were idiots too. Most teenagers do. None of this is significant in the long run. What is important is how you live your own life.

My grandson gets angry and bounces off the walls if he doesn’t go to martial arts classes and play sports. It’s because he is full of energy looking for a good use. I suggest you find a constructive outlet for your energy and leave your parents to ruin their own lives.

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Are you my doctor?

In honor of the New Dr. Seuss book set for release (What Pet Should I Get?) I also wrote a poem.

Enjoy:

Are you my doctor?

I can’t sleep or sleep all day, it’s not sunny only gray. Time is endless, I am alone. I don’t want to dress and have no will to atone. In other people I can’t hear, they go on , I can’t care.

Are you my doctor , what do you think, are you my shrink?

I am an intern. I work late for low pay. I am available 24 hrs a day. As your intern I have to be stern. At your best you are depressed.

I will send you to the social worker.

I am anxious I can’t leave my house. I panic and jump like I’ve just seen a mouse.

Are you my doctor , what do you think, are you my shrink?

I am the social worker what’s mine is yours. If you can’t manage it I can do your chores.

Dr. Brilliant Cliche

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Experimenting with a new project

I have started a new blog:

The selfie of the word

A Raw, uncut, as is, unedited, and open to the public Narcissistic introspection. Essentially a selfie of the word.

Let me know what you think. It might be conducive for a twitter but we will see where it goes. Just experimenting with it for now.

(just click on The selfie of the word sentence above and you will be magically whisked to the new blog)

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

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Always on Call for them and not for me:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I work in a profession where long hours and unexpected emergencies are par for the course. My wife knew this when we got married; in fact I think that the fact that I was a good provider was at the top of her list as to why I was husband material. At first my work wasn’t a problem. But we are into year two and she is beginning to resent “taking second seat to your job.”

It strikes me as weird because I haven’t changed at all. I still take her out to dinner and buy her presents. I still call while I’m away and pay attention to her when I am home. It was enough for her before. Why isn’t it anymore?

Mike Missing

Dear Mike,

Two years into a relationship is an entirely different story from dating or honeymoon infatuation. A lot has changed that you may not have noticed. Here are some ideas to consider: 1. Everyone comes into a relationship with hopes, dreams and expectations. By year two reality may have played out very differently. 2. By the end of the first year many couples have all their eggs in one basket. Extended social networks tend to constrict over the course of marriage and new ones need to be formed. “You’re my everything” may be romantic at first, but by year two, it is wearing thin. 3. It is baby time. Was this part of your plans? Are you fulfilling your end of the bargain? This may be as important for her as your job is to you. If a baby comes into the picture, keep in mind that your absences will translate into an inability to provide help. This might be a necessity but it will still be frustrating for her.

Be glad she actually misses you and wants your constant presence in her life. Express your appreciation often and tell her that you understand it is hard. When a baby comes, ask her if she needs a nanny to help out. Many women are silent sufferers and feel guilty if “THEY DON’T DO EVERYTHING.” This type of sacrifice is a sure fire route to divorce.

Oh, I almost forgot- women like to talk about things. If in the last two years you haven’t shared all the ins and outs of your work and daily struggles she is probably feeling left out. Relationships are work. Work at it and you will have a relationship.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

The Granny Doctor wants to point out that the only certainty in life is change. You say you haven’t changed. That may be the problem. Take a good look at your marriage NOW and learn a few new tricks. When you took your vows they probably did not include “I will put our relationship in a box and never reexamine it.” Dr. Brilliant is right- biological time clocks tick louder as time goes on. Whether your plans for the future include babies or not, the issue should be discussed.

And one other question- you don’t mention what your wife does while she waits for you to come home. Does she need fulfilling work of her own? Talk about all of this! It will do more for your marriage than dinner out and a new necklace.

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Age is relative and not related to ones relatives:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I have been the odd man out for the holidays for the last seven years. All of my friends are married by now, some of them even have kids, and I am now in my mid-50’s and have never been to the altar. For a long time, it didn’t bother me, but in the last year or so, I have felt as if I really want to connect with someone and start a home.
This year, I met a wonderful woman who is 25 years younger than I. We were working together on a project and became closer and closer and now we have begun seeing each other in a more intimate manner. She went to see her family for Thanksgiving and I spent the holiday alone, with a couple of friends visiting. All I could do was talk about her. I really think there is a chance this will work, because she seems to want to have a real relationship as much as I. But I am terrified at the thought of meeting her family at Christmas. In fact, I am a bit apprehensive over all.

If this doesn’t work out, I feel I will NEVER meet someone. I know our age different might be a problem.
I am happy and anxious all at the same time. I’m afraid I’m going to blow this through sheer nerves and over-thinking.

Any suggestions?

Old Man River

Dear O M R,

I am happy for your happiness. The apprehension you are experiencing is 100% normal; if you weren’t worrying about your age difference, there would be something else to worry about.

Integrating with a partner’s family is never simple. Unless children let their parents do the matchmaking, all relationships will be scrutinized. Expectations will have to be adjusted and there will be growing pains. But if the two of you are happy with each other, the family will most likely adjust over time; they really have no choice.

If anyone tries to engage you in conflict, don’t fight with them, just agree to disagree. I wouldn’t ask their permission for your relationship either. They don’t own her and it would probably invite conflict.

Just be yourself- it is the only way anyone will get to know who you are. Understand that her family might not be thrilled at first; but over time if they see the two of you fit together happily, that’s all it usually takes to help them adjust. In the end, most parents just want their kids to be happy. When a parent can’t accept their children’s choice of life style or partner, it isn’t about the kids really, but rather their own stuff. Never let someone else’s neurosis dictate your life.

You didn’t expect this woman to walk into your life… so if this doesn’t work out, there are probably other possibilities out there too. Don’t worry too much about the future; if it’s working for now, that’s what’s important.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I can tell that you are at an age where you are taking this relationship idea very seriously. That’s great- you need to take a relationship seriously if it’s ever going to work.

However, I have a word of advice. I suggest that you make sure you are having a real relationship, not just pumping it up in your head because you need it to be real. Make sure the two of you are on the same page.

Many a woman with her biological time clock ticking has made the mistake of letting her fantasies run wild and has imagined herself married and with three kids… all within five minutes of meeting some guy! People who really want something badly tend to do this. You could be one of these people… your new girlfriend could be too. So keep your eyes open.

You need a relationship to be real at this point in your life. The up side? When you find one, you will be much more likely to succeed at making it work.

I can’t tell you what will happen here, but whoever you are with, there will be problems. If you are honest with yourself, and with each other, whatever happens, you will deal with it like two adults- and that’s the kind of relationship people of ALL ages should have.

No regrets,

Granny

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Environment matters:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

My adult nephew suffers from mental illness but after 35 years he has done well in his coping. He has taken some responsibility for his behavior and the consequences of his actions on others around him, including his family. This wasn’t the case early on.

What I am concerned about today is his daughter. She has been on psychiatric medications since the age of 4 and by now is on quite a lot of them and some are seriously strong medications. She has been, and still is, a handful according to my nephew. None of the medications she is on seem to work forever. Currently he doesn’t see the pills as doing much good but he fears that removing them could make her worse. Neither he or his wife can afford to miss work should this happen. They are on the cusp financially.

What can he do?

Concerned

Dear concerned,

Life is like a table. It has many legs. Medications are only one leg and relying on only one leg makes the whole table unstable. All very young children are primarily instinctual. How they feel determines how they act. As children grow, logic and data are supposed to kick in to help them learn to make good choices. But people need to make an effort to discriminate when it is appropriate to act or not act on their feelings. It is seldom a natural ability. Many normal adults never acquire this skill but in every case of mental illness, the thinking remains nearly entirely feeling based.

Look at the table again. Now look at your nephew’s daughter. If she is a table, and they are using only medication to control her problem, then it is being addressed solely on one leg. This could prevent her from ever acquiring the skills to help manage her own feelings or assume personal responsibility. It could keep her emotionally like a child forever.

This is why psychiatric medication, if used alone and without additional learning and therapy, is not a long term solution. If a patient relies solely on medications, after a ten year period they are worse off than before they ever took medications in the first place. Medication alone will not help them to acquire the skills that teach them to not be a feeling based reflexic automaton.

If an individual doesn’t learn to address their own life and advocate for themselves, their lives certainly won’t get any better or different. They never develop personal will or choice. Mental illness doesn’t bypass this system. It is a result of this system.

If your nephew doesn’t get his daughter into counseling, get her involved in karate or some sport, Art, and other activities that will gain her skills and mastery of her emotions and behaviors she will be on medication and be a mental health patient for the rest of her life-guaranteed. Our current paradigm says it’s all genetic and intervention doesn’t matter much. PURE BALLONY. I have seen children of mentally ill parents excel after being given good resources and different opportunities from those their parents had. I have also seen kids from supposedly healthy homes who are given indulgence, poor resources, and poor skill acquisition. They have not fared so well.

Environment matters, it has even been shown recently to alter ones DNA.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I agree with BALONEY etc.

I also have to express astonishment that some group of medical assholes actually used their best professional judgement to put a child unattended on increasing medications…and some parent gave permission.

I will simply give Nephew a warning that at this point the child’s system is so polluted with drugs that if they are withdrawn cold turkey it could be life threatening. I would recommend strongly that Nephew seek the advice of a medical psychiatrist with a more holistic approach who can begin to get the freakin’ poison out of this poor girl without damaging her any further in the effort.

Shame on you, whoever did this.

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All people are a cliché:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I am not sure if it is a problem but my situation just feels weird sometimes. I have been married for over 15 years and my wife can finish my thoughts before I can even formulate what I was going to say.
Because of this, it feels like, “why bother if I am I that predictable? How can she not be bored with me if I don’t need to actually participate?”
Is this normal? And if so, why can’t I do the same with her? I never know what she is thinking. I can’t tell if she is mad at me or just having a bad day.

Just a Guy

Dear Guy

A professor I once worked under used to say, “All people are a cliché.” What he meant was that what people have done before, they will do again, and in more or less the same pattern. It makes sense if you consider this fact- you can only know what you know and what you do is based on what you know. Some people are better at recognizing the clichés than others. Your wife pays attention to you, or she would not know you so well, and that is not a bad thing. All people are predictable if you are paying attention.

I wouldn’t say you bore her. That is your issue, probably due to your self-esteem. Besides, predictability and stability in a relationship are not bad things. Unpredictable relationships are rollercoaster’s. But if you are worried about it, surprise her. Buy her some flowers tonight.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: if your wife were bored with you, instead of paying such close attention that she can predict your every thought, she would ignore you, day dream about more exciting partners and have no idea what you are going to say because she doesn’t give a crap.

Here is another cliche, but one that is true- heterosexual men are not nearly as intuitive as heterosexual women and gay men. It’s an actual feature of brain development, not some sort of character deficiency in you. Heterosexual men and gay women are more mechanically inclined and less connected to their emotional and intuitive centers. However, if you take a cue from your wife and start paying the sort of attention to her that she pays to you, you will begin to notice many things about her that You don’t notice now.

Intuition is not a magical power that comes out of the blue. Intuition is the result of careful observation, a good memory, and the ability to process a lot of information and draw conclusions based on multiple evidence. If you went to police training school, you would learn how to develop keen powers of observation. Cops see a lot because they learned how. You can learn too. And Granny intuitively predicts that when you become more observant, not only will you understand your wife better, you will BOTH find yourself much less boring. :)

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Be Gracious, it not worth your sweat to fret:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I worked for 10 years at a company that offered a good salary and benefits. When the recession hit, both myself and many of my friends were laid off due to budget cuts. It’s been several years and I still haven’t managed to find a full time job. I live from grant project to grant project.
One of my laid-off work friends, Debra, had put in 20 years of service before getting canned. She was searching for a couple years and FINALLY found a new job the other week. Another friend told me about it and I was very happy for Debra, until I was told that Debra instructed this other friend: “Whatever you do, don’t tell Cindy I got this job!” Debra had insinuated that because I hadn’t found full time work yet, it would just upset me to hear someone else’s good news.

Quite honestly, I find this very insulting! It implies so many negative character traits on my part- that I’m selfish and only want to hear good things if they apply to me; that I’m insecure and can’t handle hearing that someone else got a job when I couldn’t; that I’m just not a very good friend.

Now I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?

Cindy Looper

Dear Cindy,

It sounds to me like your friend’s request was a misguided attempt to protect you. My suggestion is just say, “Hey I heard you finally landed a job. Congratulations!” and leave it at that. It’s what a generous, supportive friend would do; it’s good role modeling. It doesn’t matter whether your past behavior is in question or whether this is just your friend’s problem. Be consistent in your graciousness now and act like the friend you want to be, and voilà- you are that person.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I sense that there are some questions that your friend’s comment set off in your head, that’s why you are so uncomfortable with it. The fact that you have an insecure economic position can make you insecure on an emotional level too. In our society, we are taught to judge our worth by our productivity and our value by whether others value us. I think there’s a combination of factors here- your reaction to Debra’s words was colored by your admitted unhappiness over your work situation- on that level, it seems to confirm your worst fear- you’ll never find a good full-time job again. And on a personal level, it made you doubt your worth in your friend’s esteem. In short, it was all about you… and in a bad way. It’s time to re-direct your own history. As Dr. Brilliant pointed out, deliberately acting like the strong, confident and supportive person you want to be is a step in creating or reinforcing that person in a real way. Congratulate your friend, act like the bigger person; and that becomes part of your history and your mark as an individual. It’s really up to you.

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Another Pippin:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

After I dropped out of school I got caught for a petty crime- shoplifted some CD’s. Anyway, my parents got me into this “rehab” program so I could minimize
the impact of my pilfering. They feel like they’ve done their job, the state thinks I’m reforming and everyone’s happy. I’m supposed to go back to school and get my life on track.
Here’s the problem- I just don’t give a damn. I don’t give a crap about college. I just want to experience life before I lock myself into the prison I’ve watched my parents live in.

I feel like this is all a lie and I just want to run away from it. Any reason I shouldn’t?

Jane Reb

Dear Jane,

Yes- going to prison for real. You may be right, your parents live in a box; we all do in one way or another. But I think you have the wrong idea about freedom. Freedom isn’t getting to do whatever you want whenever you want. That is just a state of limbo as there is nothing to define you. There is no meaning if you live just the moment. With that type of existence, it’s as if you are the wind and you are only defined by the damage you leave behind after you have blown through.

A more valuable freedom lies in getting to choose what defines you. There is freedom in choosing the rules that support the walls of your individual box.

Perhaps your parents chose their children to define them. They probably worked 9-5, paid the mortgage and provided your basic needs so that you had the opportunity to go to school, play baseball and generally have a life. These walls, although invisible, provided the structure and consistency necessary to raise healthy children.

In rejecting any structure, you run the risk of having one imposed on you- for example, prison. You are not unique in your thinking. What people want is often determined by the culture they are trying to escape from; thus when they get what they want it isn’t really what they need. A word of caution- you think you are making judgments on facts when you’re really making them on pure feelings. I suggest that you go see the play Pippin; it is about someone asking the same question you are.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: if you want to experience life, and you want it to be a good experience, you are going to need more than a collection of adventures. You are going to need to be able to take care of yourself in the long run.

Going to college right after high school is not necessarily for everyone. It’s not a bad idea to take some time and see the world; many kids waste their time in college because they don’t know what they want to do. They spend their time partying rather than learning. There is no virtue in being an aimless academic with a hangover.

Just keep this in mind- if you don’t get a college degree, or at least some solid vocational education, you are going to be at a disadvantage wherever you go. A lack of qualifications builds the walls to a box you may never get out of. You won’t be qualified for the rewarding, better paying jobs- unless you happen to be extremely talented, well-connected AND lucky as hell. Most people aren’t.

Take some time off after high school if you want. Travel, get some practical experience. See what interests you, what you are drawn to. But don’t sell yourself short and try to wing it on your fabulous personality and youthful charm. If you get a degree and don’t want to use it, fine. But you will never regret earning one. That is a promise.

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