Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers 7/15/22

1. HR’s pizza! Oh my. Goodness.

For some reason (maybe because we’re watching Only Murders in the Building) HR chose a murder weapon to slice the masterpiece.

2. Waking up to a brand new day each morning. What an incredible blessing! (Especially after the picture above.)

3. Elephant Ears.

Stop it! On the plant, not on me!

One of my top three favorite plants in the whole wide world. Here’s an old post about the reasons why …

4. The sleek new white chairs in my therapist Rubi’s office

I am a firm believer that therapists ALWAYS strategically place items in their waiting areas with hidden (HA!), underlying (probably-childhood related) purposes. Here’s my theory about the photo above.

On second thought, I’ll just let the redecorated room itself—and the therapists whose clients wait in the room—speak for itself and themselves:

“Hi there. And welcome back! Look at how fresh and clean everything looks in our, we mean YOUR, waiting area. A tabla rosa-ness to it, don’t you think? This session you’re about to have can be a new beginning to your mental health. But remember we have to do it in 50 minutes. Sit down and make yourself comfortable.”

“The slanting brown legs on the chair? We’re glad you noticed, but come on, you get that, we’re sure. No? Being grounded of course. Connecting to Mother Earth. Therapy doesn’t go straight down and to the point all at once, for goodness sake. It has to slant, meander, hiccup around for a spell. Sometimes quite a spell. Over MULTIPLE 50-minute sessions. And the FOUR legs? Why earth, wind, fire and water, of course.”


I’m sorry but I need to interrupt the room and the therapists for a second here. I took the above photo three weeks ago when the room was just being redone. Look closely at the seat part of the chair. See sort of a crack or opening? I did. And since Rubi had not called me back yet, I looked around to make sure there were no hidden cameras and did what comes naturally to me. I snooped. And, lo and behold, when I placed my hand on the seat part, it was loose. I hoisted it up. It had not been screwed down yet! Okay, again sorry, back to the room and therapists’ spill.


“You might notice the chair is a bit wobbly. That your butt moves up and down and side to side while you’re sitting. No worries. You won’t fall out of it. Just steady yourself. After all, you’ve just got a few loose screws. WE MEAN THE CHAIR HAS GOT A FEW LOOSE SCREWS!!!”


“Hi Neal,” Rubi greets me at my session three weeks ago. “Come on up.” I follow my therapist to his suite but quickly look back at the chair. And it seems to wiggle and wave a bit. I can’t tell if it is taunting or encouraging me.

5. Clouds.

I hope clouds bring you joy this weekend.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “Making Room at the Table for Truffles”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

On a recent long weekend trip up to Atlanta, Robert and I explored and ate and barhopped and went to the symphony and the theatre and even the opera.

Outside the High Museum of Art

We really had a terrific time. Well, most of the time. Except for the time when it wasn’t so terrific for me. (Which means that at that particular time it wasn’t terrific for HR either.)

Truffles (my nickname for my anxiety) showed up (uninvited) on the first evening of our … terrific trip. I don’t have a hold on whether or not I sometimes trigger my anxiety (I suspect I’m a culprit), but I do know that when I get pretty (ugly?) anxious, I sort of lose grip on the usually cool, calm and collected Neal. Together Neal. Funny Neal. Public Neal. Those Neals suddenly skedaddle. I can’t make them stay, though desperately I try.

We were staying in a very cool Airbnb steps from lovely Piedmont Park. Robert had prepared a beautiful roasted garlic chicken penne with asparagus supper. But Truffles was already making his presence known before we even sat down to eat. You see, I had gotten sick at the end of our last Atlanta trip, and I suppose I was a bit concerned it might happen again.

And then I looked closer at Robert’s beautiful food, and my anxiety skyrocketed. Which of course makes absolutely no sense. But neither does generalized anxiety disorder, at least not to me. I didn’t want Truffles there ruining our evening. So I did one of my Two Least Effective Ways to Deal With Anxiety Strategies: Nothing. I said zilch to HR and pretended to him and to myself that all was well. (In case you are interested, the other least effective strategy is to fight anxiety as my mortal enemy.)

Then dinner itself quickly became my enemy. The garlic smelled far too garlicky. And the creamy garlic sauce was leaning toward being alfredo. Which is perfectly fine for 99.9% of the human population, but I have a crazy connection in my mind between alfredo sauce and breath-inhibiting nausea. And the thought of being nauseous electrifies my anxiety. (I know, I know, I need to just get over this.)

The evening was unraveling. I felt bloated, even though I had barely touched dinner. All because of Truffles! I wanted to pack up and head back home. Because of course you can just run away from anxiety. Leave it geographically behind.

Of course Robert quickly saw through my attempted impersonation of “Normal Neal.” It wasn’t hard. I’m an easy read. I wasn’t eating, and my breathing had morphed into anxiety staccato. My eyes were wet.

I tried to explain. But you (well, I) cannot explain anxiety. It’s too person-specific, too nuanced. Too IN YOUR FACE at the moment.

Levelheaded HR reminded me that I had a protocol of strategies (which I had forgotten all about) and graciously told me that I didn’t have to eat. “It’s fine.”

I was so Truffled that I even called my therapist back home in Savannah, and Rubi agreed to chat. (Do other folks harass their therapists the way I do, thinking Rubi is constantly glancing at his phone to see if I need anything?) (No? Why not?!)

Fast forward a bit. You really don’t need to see me at my most anxious and illogical self. Sound encouragement from Rubi, chewable Benadryl, deep breathing and (finally!) accepting that Anxiety/Truffles was a part of me and that I have gotten though this many times before all helped to ground me into the reality that life goes on, that the storms don’t last forever.


The next morning, after I set the table for breakfast, Robert weirdly placed a third plate down. Pulled a third chair to the table in front of the plate.

HR then dramatically pointed at the third plate and chair and said …

… “I think we need to make room at the table for Truffles.”

I made HR reenact the moment of his Truffles invitation. For posterity.

I’m glad I married a creative genius. But I’m also glad the only other clean plate was a smaller one.

Of course Robert—and Therapist Rubi—are right. (Sometimes I get the advice from my two R’s mixed up. It’s often quite similar.) They are both gently pushing me to recognize and accept my anxiety, Truffles, as a part of my life. And to back off from being so dismissive, unaccepting, hopeless (at least in the moment) and combative toward it.

So, okay. I guess. I’ll try. If you absolutely insist.

“Truffles, I invite you to sit at the table.”

“But I expect you to sit properly at that table. And to use your best manners. And to have taken a very hot shower before you come. With antibacterial soap. We all know Truffles can reek. And do not try to dominate the conversation. HR and I have a few things to say ourselves, you know. And if you don’t have something nice to say about people or things, just don’t say anything. And please do not overstay your welcome. This is not a spend the night party!”

“So, yes, Truffles, I invite you to sit at the table.”

Truffles: “I actually feel sorry for HR and Rubi. They’ve got their hands full with this one. When I’m with him, I’m often on the verge of a panic attack myself.”

Posted in Hello, Anxiety., Mental Health

Hello, Anxiety: “Stay in the Moment”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

As I mentioned in my last anxiety post, I nicknamed my therapist “Rubi” (for a variety of reasons, the foremost of which is that he’s a jewel, a gemstone of a therapist, even if I can’t spell “Ruby”). I also explained that my most recent “homework” has been to assign a numeric value between 1 and 10 to anxiety when it rears its head. To recognize it and feel it, but also try to come up with statements which might calm me by affirming truths about my worries, anxieties and fears. “I HAVE felt this way before, and it passed!”

Well, I had a chance to work on my homework Monday when anxiety did some ugly head rearing. Robert and I received some frustratingly unwelcome news. (Which I may write about in another post.)

Later in the afternoon I finally remembered to assign the anxiety a number. And by that time it had, of course, grown.

To a 6, maybe a 7. (I never feel exactly confident in this exercise.)

This higher level of anxiety for me is often accompanied by its two cohorts: my perceived inability to breathe efficiently and a fear of (this is disgusting) nausea and even throwing up, exacerbating the breathing problem. Probably far TMI here.

The fellow below is wearing what I perceive as my experience/problem/issue with notched-up GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder):

The headset provides him with a “virtual reality,” quite different from “normal.” Which seems a bit similar to how I regard my heightened anxiety. It tends to block out (put a red light before?) everything in my immediate experience except itself. So. Very. Frustrating. I keep “staring” at it, feeling it, and to my exasperation, I guess in a way I become my anxiety. And it becomes my reality. Not my blog’s most often see-how-happy-Neal-is version.

GAD’s version of Neal.

I texted Rubi to tell him the news Robert and I received. Well, that was the presenting reason I messaged. I also wanted, I suppose, SOME IMMEDIATE HELP. He’s a therapist, for goodness’ sake.

After some soothing, warm empathy and encouragement, Rubi helped me see that there was actually a little green light right there on the side of my anxious “headset.” Maybe not an instant out, but a way around or through. Easy for him to say, he was looking from the outside. See how clear it is from that perspective!

“Just stay in the moment. Anxiety is all about what hasn’t yet happened.”

Rubi gave me a little jewel.

When I’m not wearing the headset, I too can easily see the green light. But when the contraption is strapped so very tightly on my head?! Hmmm.

Also when I’m in the moment of strong anxiety, I tend to forget that there are other things in the moment as well.

* My breath.

* My bodily sensations grounding me to earth and to life.

* My personal truth statements waiting to remind me that I am resilient and I’ve gotten through all this before.

* The sudden epiphany that Rubi’s homework level is a 6 or 7 and NOT a 9 or 10.

* My even-with-anxiety dignity.

Anxiety too often has me looking straight ahead, in a dark place, at red-light fears which haven’t even happened yet.

Good therapy teaches that I can raise my hand to find the green light switch.

Confession: I certainly like saying, “Goodbye, Anxiety!” (pretending that it is gone for good … “I’m so fixed!”) a whole bunch more than “Hello, Anxiety” (not quite so welcoming and definitely without the exclamation point).

But don’t tell Rubi. That will just mean more homework.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “Introduction”

Spanning the past year or two, a Perfect Storm of sorts has swirled around my life, mind and body, making direct hits from time to time. The storm was/is created by the following major factors (among others):

* The pandemic’s upheaval of “normal” life as I/we knew it. Causing, at the very least, worry and unease. Affecting everything from family dynamics to personal health concerns.

* The deaths of my dad and brother, as well as husband Robert’s father, stepmother and grandmother, all within the last couple of years.

* The angry and dangerously hateful climate of divisiveness within our communities, states, country and political systems. And the constant, sometimes difficult-to-ignore media coverage.

* Realizing and coming to terms with my life as an older married-to-a-guy (!) gay man, closely connected to my two daughters and their families, as well as my loving ex-wife.

* Being married to a wonderful black man and taking a serious and difficult (often very painful) look at issues of racism and social injustices in our nation and world.

* Even the seemingly silly fact that I’m getting older (I’ll reach the milestone of 70 next January!) and dealing with aging issues, which can seem both unfriendly and foreign.

So a few months back, I came to realize I needed some help. (Duh.) After reading Lori Gottlieb‘s encouraging and often hilarious Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (for the second time), I started looking for a therapist.

It took me a while to narrow the offerings down. Have you ever googled “Therapist near me”?! After all, I stand in the produce aisle, taking forever to decide on the “best” tomatoes, based on color, size, texture, aroma and how-do-they-compare-to-my-childhood-memories-of-homegrown?

What was I looking for? I guess this …

… even though at that point, I had not thought about or considered the word “anxiety” itself. I was experiencing it but not naming it.

I finally found him, and it only took a few sessions for him to gently say one day, “Neal, I think it’s pretty clear that you have generalized anxiety disorder.”

I was a tiny bit insulted. I think what I desired to hear was somewhere along the lines of, “Oh my goodness, Neal, you are a terrifically well adjusted man. Now go and BE that. You can do it. You ARE it!”

When I could breathe easier, I realized he was right.

This new blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to be able to say “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the Perfect Storm. I invite you to join me.

But I’ll supply the tomatoes.

Posted in The View from Behind

The View from Behind: Introduction

For some reason, I have always appreciated, even revered, “the view from behind.”

As a child, on the first day of each new school year, I was a nervous wreck waiting for the teacher to announce our seating arrangement. Front of the class? 😢 Too much exposure! Too revealing! Too out there! Far too much responsibility to “be.”

A nice, comfy seat toward the back? 😁 Perfect. I get to observe, to “see.” To calmly breathe.

Note to self: ASAP, schedule at least three long therapy sessions to discuss the three short paragraphs above.

But for now, allow me to introduce my newest NealEnJoy blog category: “The View from Behind,” where I invite you to join me somewhere in the back.

Little gator and me, Okefenokee Swamp Park, Waycross, Georgia

Always hold an “alligator” (or any challenging life … critter) in front of you, and if you can, kindly but temporarily tape its mouth closed.