Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My possible new understanding behind my "overwhelm" experiences.

I have been going through some kind of internal turmoil these past few weeks.  It all started with a therapy session revelation that when I get "overwhelmed" when playing with the kids or while enjoying an intimate conversation with my wife, that feeling of overwhelm is a fear that pops up in my mind machine telling me that I am about to get attacked by my dad.  Weird, huh?  I'll explain.

When interacting with the kids and playing with them (e.g., I was swimming in our pool and being a whale while the kids rode on my back cackling and experiencing lots of joy), instead of experiencing what psychologists call an "endorphin" good-feeling experience, I get overwhelmed and I "shut down."  I get a headache, and I experience a pain surrounding my head like a helmet combined with a pain in my heart, and my tolerance for the experience drops through the floor.  I tell myself that I am not thinking straight, I become dizzy and I feel like I want to pass out.  I experience a horrible feeling in my chest (as if I was being starved; as if I have not eaten in days), and I feel nauseous.  I really at that point want the experience to end, so I retreat to a "safe" place without all of the overstimulation.  Since I was in the pool at this particular moment, I politely told the kids to go out of the pool for a few minutes while I breathed and let the feeling sensations pass.

I don't actually go "Jeckyll and Hyde."  Rather, I notice that I am not feeling well, and so (if needed), I end whatever experience is happening so that I can crawl into my own shell and recover.  This is why I love my office so much -- after the morning stress of making lunches and dealing with whatever mess was conjured up in my home between, say, 6am and 7am, after the kids get to school, my office is a good place to sit down and "de-fuzz" (and maybe have a good cry ;p ) before my workday begins.

I was discussing this experience with a therapist I am seeing, and he was leading me through some kind of visualization to determine the cause of the overwhelm.  In the visualization, while reviewing the "tatty is a big whale in the pool" experience, I noticed and mentioned that "this sounds out of place -- I'm feeling a dull feeling of fear that my dad is about to scream and attack me."  "That's it!" the therapist chimed.

He explained that often messed up feelings do not have anything to do with the experience in which they manifest themselves.  My fear of getting attacked by my dad -- who is now many hundreds of miles away from us, and who is now an older man no longer in an authority role where he can yell, scream, or burden us with his explosive temper tantrums -- was not logically related at all to me feeling happiness in spending time with the kids.  "It's not logical!" I explained to the therapist, whereas he responded, "specters such as these are not supposed to be logical."

In other words, the therapist believes that somewhere up in my mind machine, it has linked together the concept of "what-would-be-endorphin-producing-pleasurable-experiences" and this "pain."  I imagine a loving child wanting to climb on his daddy, and his daddy explodes out of anger for whatever his reason, only to leave that child cowering in a corner wondering what he did to elicit such an explosive anger reaction when he only wanted to play with his daddy.  In other words, I was probably spooked a few times (or at a minimum, ONE traumatic experience) which caused my mind machine to overwrite the "pleasure" signal with "fear" or "pain."  Thus, when the pleasure signal is triggered, I feel the sensation of pain.

"What a sucky experience that must be," I thought.  I have resorted to paying attention to the feelings, and breathing through the overwhelm when I sense it, all the while reading books on the topic and doing work on myself to hopefully fix this "problem" I appear to be experiencing.  But, so far, no dice.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Morpheus tells Neo, "Don't think you are. Know you are."

I was just sitting at my desk when it hit me about how actors feel when they act, and how that relates to me in my body.  In my previous e-mail, I posted an article I wrote in 2004 entitled, "who is the I," a crude self-analysis of trying to figure out what part of my experience is "me."

I don't know if I was channelling Descartes, or any of the other philosophers I have read over the years, or whether I was at the time simply hashing out a Chassidic discourse or "maimer" I was working on at the time.  However, just now, I got a flash of something.

Actors stand in the role of another person, the better the actor, the more believable the character in the play or the movie.  I often said that there are a number of actors who are the same person in every movie NOT because they choose to only play certain characters, but BECAUSE THEY CAN'T GET THEIR REAL SELVES OUT OF THE WAY WHEN ACTING AS THE CHARACTER.

I remember in college, I took a number of acting classes.  And, I needed to stand in front of the crowd and become someone else.  At the time, I was too nervous and self-whatever it is called to get out of my own shell and be the character.  However, my instructor told me to "take off my shirt," which made me extra nervous because there were girls in that class that I liked very much, but I was too timid to approach or befriend.  When I took off my shirt which reflected the "persona," "style," or "character" of the personality I was trying to wear, so to speak, the professor smiled after a few seconds and said, "Ah, there you are."  The other students saw it also.

The focus on what I am trying to convey is that there are all these layers of "stuff" we carry with us which prevent us from being who we really are.  Perhaps we were hurt as a child.  Perhaps we have had our hearts broken.  Perhaps we are unable to support our families.  While each of these are reasons to justify the feeling of sadness being there, the act of judging those experiences as "bad" and choosing to "kuch" or to swim in those feelings is not justified.  You are not your creator, and you are not the one who created the world.  As such, you are not the person who created the people who hurt you, and you are not the person who caused them to hurt you.  Quite frankly, I would even venture to say that you are not the "I" in this "movie" who was hurt, and nor do you have the right to choose to be sad about what happened to your character.  Doing so is like saying, "G-d, I know better than you, and I'm smarter than you.  You made a mistake.  It should have played out like THIS."

Rather, you have a duty to be who you are, to be authentic, and not to drag the past, the future, or to assume the role of some movie character, Superman, or persona that you would like to emulate into your daily life.  All of us would like to be the best we are.  Your job as the actor, or the force wearing your character as a puppet is to step into the body of your character, and be that character.  Don't try to be yourself being that character, and don't try to change or improve who the character is.  Rather, play out that character's story as he was put on this planet.  This obviously requires a bit of creativity to do this, so think, do, say, and act in ways which will make the character the best he or she is.  Or, if you are sadistic, fuck up your characters life and see where that goes.  In other words, stop trying to judge your character, JUST ACT AND BE THAT CHARACTER.  The weird thing is that whether you do good for your character or whether you mess up his or her life by acting in contrary to the way he would act, part of me thinks he's not real and its just YOU out there, so go experience life however you want your character to experience it.  {Personally, I want to have my character follow the rules and be measured in my character's steps because I still don't believe that I am not my character, so I have not yet been able to break free of that fear of doing so.  I also -- for love of my character -- want that character to have the best life possible, and I want him and his family to thrive both physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  So as my character, I will do what I believe are actions which I believe are in his best interests.}

This is so hard to convey, and I am hearing thoughts telling me that I am still not conveying it right.  So attempt #2.

A good actor is the character in whom he is placing his persona.  A good actor assumes the person who is the subject of his acting.  So instead of thinking you are that character, BE THAT CHARACTER.

This almost reminds me of the Matrix movie where Morpheus tells Neo while they are fighting (and I am obviously butchering the words), "...Stop TRYING to hit me and HIT ME! You are faster than this.  Don't think you are; KNOW YOU ARE."  Then right afterwards, just before he jumps across a huge gap between two buildings, he says "don't think you can.  Know you can.  Free your mind."  Neo obviously trys to force himself to think he can do it, and he fell to the floor many stories down and blood spurted from his lips.

In sum, a lesson to myself and to you -- stop trying to be who you are, and BE WHO YOU ARE!

"Who is the I," a book introduction that I wrote in 2004.

Below is an article that I wrote LITERALLY TEN YEARS AGO, in 2004.  At the time, it appears that I was still trying to understand my surroundings, and my role in this reality.
I’ve been trying to figure out my purpose on this Earth.  In college, fed up by the games that people played but nobody knowing the rules, I was swept up into the idealism that that love should be free; that people don’t need structurized environments to feel good about one another.  I saw people acting in the mold of a jap, a jock, a nerd, a geek, a goth-type person, a prep, a heavy-metal listener, among many other sub-genres of people wearing a mold as their mask.  I was annoyed and always asked myself, “why can’t people just be real?”  What is all this shtus (garbage) that people wear?  Why spend so much time being someone else? Why reject another and be mean to them because it is cool to do so? The problem is that people spend so much time emulating others, they never figure out what the truth is inside themselves.
Who are you?  The question probes an inner itch we have to something that is above us, because there is no way to describe specifically who we are; we can only describe what we do or how we act and think.  For example, one can think “I’m a nice guy. I study law. I play piano. I have a CD collection with many new age musicians and countless self-improvement tapes. I am religious. I think of G-d almost all day long. I wonder about the unknown. I connect what I learn to what I see. I want to do well in law school; I want to succeed. I want to get married; to who is a different question. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe we are all here for a purpose. I believe there is a world that is not a planet, an existence that is not bodily, action without movement.  I believe everything is connected literally and at every depth and level in a metaphysical web that is beyond our comprehension”.  Yet all these descriptions describe how you act, what you do, and what you want and believe.  It doesn't describe the essence of who you are.
There is a presupposition within each one of the above statements; notice how they all start with the word “I”.  Nature and common sense fools us into thinking that the essence of who we are is the stuff at the end of the sentence – the description that expounds on the word “I”.  Yet when one begins to probe deeper into one’s self, the activities one enjoys are directed by what they believe will give them pleasure.  I, for example, used to love to read countless texts on esoteric studies, self-help books (as if they were cookbooks), and would spend most of my free time listening to speakers such as Anthony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Richard Bandler, Wayne Dyer, and many more who have touched my life in ways they could never have imagined.  Yet I spent my time that way because I felt it would increase my communication skills and would allow me to function better in the world.  Further, I was looking for mastery over the self – I held the belief that the body in some form was a machine that could be programmed for optimal functionality.  Lastly, I delved into the psyche and the unconscious with the hopes that one day it would lead me to understand the greater Truth.  Maybe I was looking to meet my creator face-to-face.
Each element of the above was further influenced by my belief systems that were implanted into me when I was younger.  My mother was always listening to Tony Robbins tapes in the car.  The first book she bought for me as a gift was a book called “Triggers”, which taught us how to elicit good moods mechanically by associating a feeling with a non-related activity like snapping the fingers.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, my unconscious mind would then, after many repeated trials, associate the feeling to the action.  You could imagine that I was going around all day snapping my fingers.  
Then in high school when the peer pressures began to build up, I was getting frustrated at not being liked by my peers.  I was laughed at for being polite, and mocked for asking my bully to “please stop”.  As a result, my mood leaked into my home life.  As a remedy, my mom told me that the body acts the way the muscles move.  So if I am smiling a huge jolly smile, there is no way to be sad.  I remember for an hour at a time, my mom would make me put on a big grin, despite the teenage rage I was feeling or the hurt I was feeling.  While I would laugh inside at how contradictory my actions were to the feelings inside, I also felt a dissonance that caused a shift in my mood.  This caused my emotions to conform to the weird looking smile on my awkward-looking adolescent face.  This experience developed in me the belief that emotions are influenced by the way we hold our body.  Point being, if I wanted to feel happy, I had to act happy and the feelings would somehow follow.  Now, when I want to feel happy, I give a warm smile (and occasionally snap my fingers).
It is equally plausible that someone could have had the opposite experience.  I could have experienced love and attention from a parent once when I was accidentally affected by a virus that acted up in my body.  As a result, I would have learned that when I manifest an illness by acting sick (and yes, one can make oneself physically ill by thinking oneself ill – this was an accidental learning that got me out and in trouble many times), people would have paid attention to me and would have acted nicer and more loving towards me.  This explains why many people are plagued with psychosomatic illnesses which manifest in their bodies with real symptoms, but the doctors have no idea how to treat them because the person is not really ill.  The point here is that illness often is a learned response.  The goal of acting ill here is not to get the love and attention; it is the feelings of pleasure we derive from the love and attention that drives us to manifest one illness after another.  
However, we see here that our beliefs at some level were adopted by us and integrated into who we are.  Just as one could have developed the belief that being ill brings me pleasure, I developed the belief that smiling brings me pleasure.  The important thing to remember is that these are all beliefs that we adopted – these were decisions we made at some point to lay the path for how we would live our lives.  It is from these beliefs that we decide how to act, or how not to act.  These actions form one’s superficial identity of who they are in this world, based on how they act, think, speak, and feel at any certain moment.  But this identity is not real; it is not a real, tangible thing.  The “I” that we refer to when we say a statement such as “I love you” is a concept, just as love is a description for a group of good feelings with an improperly assumed attribute of permanence (this is a topic for another time). If “I” is based on my actions and my identity, and my identity is based on my belief systems influencing how I think and how I act, and if belief systems are decisions one makes with the intention of gaining pleasure and avoiding pain, then the “I” is mutable, and it changes over time, although there really is no “it”!  
Our personalities evolve and mature as we gain more experiences and make more decisions as to who we are, superficially.  Yet anything that changes logically is not fixed; therefore we cannot say that the “I” in “I love you” is real and ever-lasting, because the next moment, we can change, make a decision, and fall out of love.  But from this do we come to the conclusion that there is no “I”?  I remember the philosophical dorm conversations I had at college -- Am I not here?  No.  The “I” in the sense of the way you act, feel, and think at this very moment was created by the person you were one moment ago.  Who you are is not real, because you change every moment.
Plus, let’s get something straight.  We mistakenly base who we are (the “I”) on our personality.  We determine who we are based on how we feel about certain things.  However, how we feel is based on the beliefs we have about that specific topic.  Our beliefs impact our thoughts, our speech, and our actions, and when we ask who we are, we look to our character traits (which are attributes -- titles -- which we attribute to ourselves; we form these opinions about ourselves looking to the actions we take on a daily basis) and our personality (also a title for the conglomeration of our belief systems and our daily thoughts).  Yet these change as we change.  Hence, other than perhaps trying to identify aspects of us that don’t change or haven’t changed (i.e. we love things that make us feel good and dislike things that give us pain, we breathe, we think, we always liked the same food or activity, etc.), the “we” that we attribute to each of our “I”s are simply not real because our tastes change as we grow and evolve.
Further, since when did a collection of beliefs and thoughts transform into an entity we call a personality?!?  A personality is simply a word, just as a clock is the word we call that box that wakes us up in the morning and water is the word for the liquid we drink to give our body physical vitality and lubrication so that it can carry out its’ processes.  Personality is a word; it is not a real thing.  We must be careful in life to distinguish what is real, and what is simply a word for some other entity.
I know this sounds similar to the reasoning of RenĂ© Descartes in his Meditations, where he tried to get to the empirical foundation of who we are.  He discounted everything as being not real because it can not be relied upon.  I am simply saying be careful of what you attribute physical substance to because it might be a description of something else. 
Okay, so there is no such thing as a personality.  There is no such thing as the “I”, as we traditionally think of ourselves.  To think otherwise would be false; this would be messy and careless thinking, and it could confuse us in our quest in learning who we are.  Even legal terminology has the word “person” messed up, although their definition brings us closer to the answer. 
[PERSON. This word is applied to men, women and children, who are called natural persons. In law, man and person are not exactly synonymous terms. Any human being is a man, whether he be a member of society or not, whatever may be the rank he holds, or whatever may be his age or sex. A person is a man considered according to the rank he holds in society, with all the rights to which the place he holds entitles him, and the duties which it imposes. 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 137.  2. It is also used to denote a corporation which is an artificial person.]
So according to the legal dictionary, a person is a man, meaning a human being.  Yet even they define a human being according to his rank, which is determined either by his activities which led him to that rank, or by birth, which itself is an activity.  I ask again -- at what point did an activity (an event someone takes part in) become the “who” that the person is?  In reality, it doesn't.  We are defined by what we do and the belief systems we have, but this is not who we are.  There aren't entities called Democrats or Republicans; these are names we call people who ascribe to a certain ideology.  Even the ideology is not a thing in itself; it is a word used to describe a hodgepodge of beliefs.
So if we are not understood to be, in a physical sense, our activities, our beliefs, or our personality, then what is the “I” that we refer to when we say “I play soccer”?  We understand that it is not the description of what we do (i.e. playing soccer).  Further, when we say “I am a senator”, we know that who we are is not the legal position of being a senator.  Who we are in general is not the description at the end of the sentence.
We know that there is an “I” who has been here on Earth since we've been born.  This “I” has experienced everything we have experienced, has felt all the pains and pleasures we have felt, and has been there in-step with every move, every thought, and every tick of the clock.  Who is this?  It is your body – a bouquet of meat and water.  A close friend of mine once said “it’s a piece of flesh; you can cook it”.  It’s a frightening thing to think of any part of us detached and on a grill roasting.  Immediately, we are uncomfortable with this picture.  
But the question becomes, who is uncomfortable with this picture?  We already established that “I”, when it refers to one’s personality really is referring to nothing of substance.  If we posit that the “I” is our body, then we immediately ask what animates it.  We come to this question because a body part can not live on its own; it requires a body whole to function.  Further, we learn from science that a body part can function in a body that is not the same as the body in which it came from.  For example, when a heart is separated from it’s host, on it’s own it cannot function for an extended period of time.  On its own, like our other body parts, it will die.  However, if it is placed in another host, then it may continue to live.  
Hence, we come what seems to be our answer.  The “I” is the same entity that forms and powers the body whole.  This entity is the animator of the body that, when extracted from the body, the body no longer has life.  This entity is who we are, in whole or part.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reflection of TEN YEARS of blogging as Zoe Strickman.

I'm not sure whether I am writing this for myself of for a reaction from you, but the readership of this blog has dropped to almost zero.  "This affirms that I am really using this blog for the right purpose -- a true journal," I think, and then I get sad that I only have two or three readers left from the olden days.  Hundreds of hits PER ARTICLE; ten, twenty comments in each post, arguments back-and-forth between readers in the comments section, drama, marital suggestions, etc. used to be a normal part of this blog.  No more.  Now it is just you, you, and me -- an echo chamber.

Its a bit shocking that ten years have passed since I started writing a book on understanding who we are.  I was fighting with the concept of the "I" after coming out of yeshiva and first starting law school.  But to go back to 8/26/2004...

I was starting my first day of my second year of law school.  I was working hard on becoming an attorney, and I had a pretty difficult courseload ahead... Evidence, Constitutional Law (which I eventually failed), and who knows what else.  I had my friends, and I wasn't even thinking of marriage yet.  My excitement came from waiting to receive the Netflix DVDs in the mail -- who would ever think that their streaming service would ever be something of value?

I was fighting a struggle of identity.  Who I am.  I was trying to reconcile it with the idea of a "frum" person, as it was taught to me in yeshiva.  I was frum, but I wasn't that person I had in my head, yet at the time, I did not yet come to terms with it.  Appearances were so important, and I was a soldier of the Lubavicher Rebbe feeling pressured to do what a Lubavicher does.  I was careful to dress, act, and be what was expected of me, and the fact that I lacked in certain key areas (e.g., davening with a minyan, or thinking like a Lubavicher) was a deep source of angst for me.

I started this blog thinking that there must be something wrong with me.  Kiley's blog resonated with me so deeply that I decided that I must be like her.  It was her style and her honesty that inspired me to look deeply within myself and find the reasons for my angst.  She found a reason for her pain, and I wanted a reason too -- something that I can point to and say THAT is why I am the way I am.  I made a decision that there was something wrong with me, and then I went to visit a psychologist to prove that I was a manic depressive, and already knowing the answers to the diagnostic questions I would be asked, I answered in a way that I knew the doctor would agree with me.

[With all sensitivity and respect to those who truly suffer, I made a mockery of them and when it was no longer convenient, I stood up and said, "nope, that's not me."  In the meantime, however, I experienced true feelings of helplessness imposed on my by those who were supposed to be protecting me.  I felt as if I was not trusted by those with whom I entrusted my health, and that I couldn't trust my own thoughts, my urges, or my own energy patterns.  When I had an all-nighter rush from studying for an exam the next day (or more likely, my turn for being "called upon" to be the Socratic method punching bag of the day to give jollies to some law school professor's sadistic urges), I blamed my adrenaline rush the night before on being manic depressive.  When I was sad that I had no relationship and nobody to love, I blamed this sadness on being a manic depressive.  The definitions were too easily applicable to my minor mood swings, and so I was hit with a label that was so damn difficult to remove, even though I never gambled away all my earnings or attacked a cop while running naked through the street, or booked a cruise to Hawaii naked in the middle of some manic rage (there are obviously extreme examples).  I was just a law school kid who was having a difficult time keeping up with the pace that was required of me to succeed in what was a nasty, ego-blasting, often humiliating, cut-throat environment that was law school.]

In giving myself the title of being manic depressive, I also forgot that I had roughly twenty large cups of coffee a day during the week, and did not consider that this might affect my moods a bit.  I forgot that I had an abusive childhood where I had not yet scratched the surface of resolving the emotional trauma I experienced as a child.  Heck, I didn't even remember whether my feelings and my memories were real or not, and I felt like a liar for not remembering whether memories of abuse were real or not.

But it wasn't only abuse.  It was my parent's divorce.  It was the breakup of my home, my security.  It was the guilt from feeling like I caused the divorce.   It was the failed relationships and inability to form meaningful friendships over the years which hurt deeply.  I was selfish and self-centered in all of my dealings, and the other for me was a tool to be used for my own growth an personal development, but at the time I was blind to this.  I probably still am.

But it wasn't only my parent's divorce, or my failed relationships.  It was my explicit failure in my chosen profession in school.  I did not get into medical school because I withdrew my application over a technicality -- a core course which I was having trouble with, "physics" reflected to the medical schools that I failed it when in reality my transcript showed that it was an incomplete.  I was sucked in around the same time to a MLM / pyramid scheme which eventually landed many of my peers in jail.  I was spared because after leaving the chosen medical field to do this full time, and after giving it my all, I lost $20,000 and I was in debt up to my ears trying to make the business work.  But I couldn't pay my bills and the income from the business stopped coming in.  I died inside and admitted defeat, and then the pyramid scheme went under.  Then a few months later, it morphed into something new and I was dumb enough to give it a try again.  I fell so hard on my face from the business failure that I thought that I would never recover.

...Then I found religion.

Religion didn't solve my problems, it compounded them.  I suddenly had to be someone else, and I had to leave behind many things I held very dear and close to me.  Ballroom dancing, the occult, tarot cards, dating, bars, friendships, freedom -- these all vanished when I decided to hide away in the frum world and remake myself.

I came out a changed man with a plan.  A religion as a toolkit on my belt, and a belief that if I did X, Y, and Z, I would be rewarded with spiritual goodies, a good life, a wife, children, riches, and all that my heart could desire.  Wrong.  "We don't make deals with G-d," a rabbi once told me after I was devastated that I bombed the first LSAT exam when I finally decided to go to law school.

"If we don't make deals with G-d, then what good is he?  Isn't he supposed to be my father, my owner, my creator, my friend, my consolation in times of pain?  Isn't he supposed to save me? From myself?  From others who oppress me?"  "And why should I serve Him if he does not reward me?"

I went through years of this, yet somehow my life has shown me that everything I believed was true.  He does reward us for our hard work and our prayers.  He does help us in times of need.  What I did not understand at the time, however, was that he does for us what HE believes is good for us, not what I believe is good for me.  In other words, no Porche in the driveway; no million bucks in the bank and naked models at my side when I walk down the street.  No fame, and no recognition -- just little old me.

It is ten years later, and after a number of rough years, for the moment, things have been good.  My law practice is for the moment successful.  I have six children all of whom were born in succession.  I have my health, and I have a good wife.  Now my marriage has been one hell of a shaky one over the years, but after a few years of bumpy times, I have learned how to appreciate my wife even with her faults.  Even today I still catch myself being a judgmental prick, noticing some task (today it was no laundry, no shirts, no undershirts, and no underwear), but instead of getting upset about it, I still love her even though she often doesn't have her act together.  But, then again, I almost never have my act together either, so who am I judging?

I'm reading a book right now by Don Miguel Ruiz, "The Four Agreements," and I am very impressed.  It teaches that you should love your wife the way you love your pet.  If they don't want to play, no sweat.  We don't take it personally, and we don't question whether our relationship will survive, or whether the cat treats me with enough respect or whether the cat loves me the way I want to be loved, etc.  Even on bad days, we still love our cat.  We feed her, we hold her, and we play with her.

Another point in the book that I am working on grasping is that "your wife is not perfect, and neither are you.  But her flaws are her flaws.  Her mess is her mess.  Her problems are her problems.  Take care of your own mess, work on your own flaws, deal with your own problems and love your wife as she is with her mess."  So this morning, I stayed home and I did the laundry -- I did the whites load and the adult color load.  Thus, I am wearing underwear, I have a clean undershirt, and I'm happy.

So, ten years, huh??  Am I really that much different?  Not really.  I am still the same person with the same flaws.  I've figured out a few things as far as my own emotional makeup; I've come to terms with my failings in my religious observance; and I'm seeing a therapist to deal with the childhood traumas I experienced so that I can "decompartmentalize" various experiences and emotions that I have locked up over the past, that way I can live healthily and lovingly with my family.  Ten years... I learned that money and support comes from G-d, and whatever he believes is appropriate for me, I'll find a way to make... as long as I go to work.

And are there still areas in which I need to improve?  You better believe it!  I wouldn't be surprised if I read the blog from the beginning and I found that I still have most of the issues I had ten years ago.  But I'm older now... wiser, sort of.  And, more calm about my world, my surroundings, and my life.  I have a deeper sense of G-d, and a deeper understanding of how he forms and expresses himself in our screwed up, corrupted, anti-semetic world.  But I don't worry (actually, YES I certainly worry), but in theory, I don't worry -- everything is all according to G-d's plan.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I do not have the freedom to follow you, Matisyahu.

I know I may be years off on this, but this is the first time I am actually taking a glimpse at the transition Matisyahu made from frum-looking to new age, aesthetic and free.

When it happened, it was a scandal and I felt that someone I looked up to defected from the path, and I couldn't help but to be angry at him making his fame on what appeared to be the backs of Chabad.  I felt that I lost a friend.  We didn't know each other, but there were many occasions where we prayed together as part of the same minyan in Crown Heights.  I knew who he was, and I knew he didn't know anything about me and I didn't care because I felt that I was in the presence of greatness -- someone who was able to hold onto the frum foundation and live an authentic life.  He brought the light to the profane and stayed shining.

But then he evolved further and broke out of the mold, and while I always appreciated his transition into other frum looks, it was only THIS EVENING -- August 22nd, 2014 -- that I was shaken when I saw for the first time his grey haired, clean-shaven look.

Tonight is NOT the first night I have ever seen him clean shaven.  Tonight was the first time I saw him clean shaven and didn't cringe.

I must have spent the last five hours watching every interview he did on YouTube, and as I thought I was feeling the pain for him that he may have lost his way, I realized that the pain wasn't for him, but for me because I do not have the guts to do what he did and AUTHENTICITY is not a reality I am willing to toy with, and this perceived weakness on my part made me sad.

Everyone who knows me on this blog knows my childhood was messed up.  To my parents' credit, they tried hard, but there was so much bad that happened, and the damage it did to me (and now to my children from my emotional absence and inability to cope with what should be easy problems) was indescribable.  Part of me is even ashamed for my parents that their own son writes these things about them, but good intentioned or not, the things HAPPENED, and they happened under their control and their supervision.

So now I have my own family, and so far, it looks as if I am doing things right.  I am sticking to the Lubavitch frum lifestyle, keeping all the kashrut stringencies, learning Chassidus, enjoying Gemara, and raising a chassidic household with our little quirks [which we can attribute to Netflix, our savior from drowning in the Chassidic world, and also our "Mr. Gold" demon (reference to the 2005 Revolver movie) hurting the purity of our otherwise chassidishe home].  I love Netflix; I really do.

In sum, I appreciate the steps Matisyahu has made in his own growth and in breaking free from the boundaries which chained him.  I too am imprisoned, but the chains give me structure and boundaries -- something I could not provide my children on my own because I never learned structure nor boundaries from my parents.  That being said, I cannot feel a bit of pain churning at my heart chakra about choosing NOT to be free.  I am a slave to G-d, to Judaism, to Chabad, and to this world, but I am a slave because I do not trust myself to be free.

I have thought many times of shaving my beard, but I never would consider doing so for real.  I am so careful to keep my beard that I have woken up on at least 3 or 4 times over the years from nightmares where I accidentally shaved off the beard in my dreams, and I regretted doing so immediately upon waking.  There were reasons I grew the beard, and YES, I TOO was pressured by a Rabbi [whom I still love and trust to have my best interests at heart] to keep the beard.  Funny how in every dream, my fear was that by shaving the beard I disappointed my Rabbi.  You have no idea how lucid those dreams were -- on more than one occasion, I woke up and ran to the mirror only to experience a huge sigh of relief that it was only a dream.

The pressure my Rabbi put on me to keep my beard is the same pressure every Rabbi puts on a baal teshuva who grows a beard for the right reasons, and then to prevent the newly minted baal teshuva from sliding back in his Jewish observance, he pressures him to keep the beard as an identity marker.  I often thought, "I'm a Jew, and by looking like a Jew, it would be awkward to find myself at a strip club, or doing something that would be a chilul Hashem (disgrace to Hashem) -- not as long as I'm wearing His beard."  The funny thing is that my experience was that the pressure came from conformity, but conformity was a value to aspire to because with it comes structure, family, G-d, connection, spirituality, and the unsaid promise of a good life.  But I am anything but conformity, and that becomes apparent as soon as you look beneath the skin into my soul.

For my children and their children's children and all the generations that G-d willing will come from my sacrifice of comfort to conform to the best of my ability to the greys, blues, blacks, and whites, I keep the beard and I hinder my own authentic expression of myself.  Survival and the identity for my children is too strong a value to consider otherwise.  For this reason, I cannot follow you Matisyahu down this path; I simply cannot allow myself the freedom to do what you can do unscathed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thoughts about Virtual Reality and Mini-fight with Wife.

Okay, so I understand that my last post or so was a bit too much to handle.  I was essentially telling you that the world is not real, all at the same time you are banging your head against the table asking, "you tellin' me this doesn't hurt?!?"

I'm not being an idiot.  Obviously we are living in a reality that we cannot disconnect ourselves from.  And, I'm contending with concepts like free will, and -- are we merely an observer plugged in and irrevocably connected to our digital body self until death??  And, if we are merely an observer of thoughts, feelings, events, people, and ourselves -- a higher self or soul or whatever having a "human" experience, are these "things" that are happening a reflection of ourselves? Are we deciding where we will go in life?  Or am I -- the entity of sorts -- creating this experience and the player that I call "me" AND the world I'm living in for my own personal growth?

I was grappling with this, because it is a mistake to say that I am a "passive observer irrevocably trapped and imprisoned" in the mind of my body, because perhaps "ein od milvado," or "Hashem's creative power" is the one that is creating this world around me and the people in it for the purpose of giving my soul an experience.  Or, perhaps the purpose is to build a "dirah b'tachtonim," or a dwelling place for Hashem, but I'm not yet there in reconciling that thought.  But the real REASON we are here is not clear to anyone because we CANNOT know anything other than the reality we are plugged into.  So this is perhaps an exercise of futility, right?

Perhaps not.

Let's pretend that Hashem's creative power is creating the world, and my consciousness (which could be my awareness of myself, or it could be my neshama or whatever) being nullified to Hashem's creative power but sensing itself through the miraculous tzimtzumim is watching a movie where "reality" is happening.  But is it "me" who is typing this article?  Is it "me" who decided to write?  Is the desire to communicate and write coming from me?  I feel it in "my" heart, but am I real?  Or, as an observer of this "reality," am I watching myself have these thoughts, make these decisions, and live this life?

I am going around in circles because it appears as if science is now saying that we are living in a hologram of sorts, as if we are experiencing a movie.  I could envision on a crude level myself at some point in the future taking off a virtual reality headset when "I" die, and while it appears as if I have lived 120 years, perhaps only a few hours has passed.  Perhaps the virtual reality headset was running a program called "the life of Zoe Strickman."  I wouldn't know this until I take off the headset.  But on some level, my experience is the life IN the headset, and I cannot do anything about it.

But perhaps it is not a linear movie that has a start, a middle, or an end.  Perhaps my movie can be influenced by my higher self, just as the characters in "The Hunger Games" were given gifts to help them survive their game.  Perhaps the higher "me" -- the guy wearing the VR headset -- can change my world or escalate my experience to "Level 2" when I beat the boss or complete the objectives of "Level 1."  Maybe my world is a game, and I am the player my higher self plugs himself into.

Whatever, who cares.  I am upset that when sharing this with my wife after having an inkling of rapport, she opened up to some concept of death that affected her personally, and I missed it.  I didn't realize she was having a "moment," and I continued on my thought process.  So as a result, she shut down and there was a mini-fight.  And I feel rotten because I wanted to be aware of those moments so that I can connect with her, and I suck because I missed it.

Being a husband is so damn difficult.  It's like being a soldier on watch for the slightest dot on my radar screen, and if I miss it, forget about it -- I'm nuked.  Why can't things be easier?  Why is everything regarding intimacy, trust, and having a connection a test?!?  I don't test her; why does she test me?  No fair.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Holographic theory applied to Torah and Chassidic Concepts.

Okay, Robert Scheinfeld time.  Before I go over to his materials, I want to express my thanks to Hashem for sharing what is appearing to be a path for me.

A month or so ago, I stumbled upon a set of videos entitled, "The Holographic Universe" by Stephen Davis.  Stephen's theory is based on the book by Michael Talbot with the same name, and apparently there is a whole new group of self-help gurus who are using their understanding of quantum physics (as if that is a cool term to throw around) -- specifically, the "double slit" experiment (something VERY COOL to watch over and over and mull over), and they are imposing their philosophical belief systems upon the quantum theory to churn out what seems to be a hologram-theory of our reality and our experience.

First of all, the video set is available for free for download at, and in my opinion, I enjoyed watching EVERY MINUTE of the five hours of videos the workshop provided.  In fact, it really opened my eyes to a number of Chassidic concepts I have learned over the years, and it has allowed me to see the concept of "ein od milvado," or, "there is nothing but Hashem (our creator)" in a very new light.

My current understanding of the concept (applying my Jewish understanding of what I have read so far in Chassidus-based texts) is simply this.  Life as we know it is "happening" for us because we are in the hologram which is projecting our reality around us.  However, the "us" (or more personally, the "I" that I experience every day (including my moods, my thoughts, any itches, scratches, sniffles, or sneezes I experience, and any happy or sad feelings I experience) is really a holographic projection, and I experience these experiences AS THOUGHTS.  To take a stab and integrating Judaism into the holographic theory (or vice versa), it appears to me as if our Neshama (soul) is creating our human experience that we perceive ourselves as physically being *in*, and we go through our lives making choices and living and experiencing the consequences of our choices.

To understand the real "us," you need to think of a movie screen.  The movie screen itself does not change when a movie is projected onto it.  And, in "truth" (whatever that means,) we are the observer who is watching the movie that we ourselves are projecting onto the screen.  Our "human experience" is a movie that we have made for whatever purpose we have (or Hashem has) created it.  And, we appear to be the "star character" in our movie.  And, we can affect the outcome of our movie because we have free will to make choices of how to act and what decisions to make in the movie (our holographic projection, our "world," or our hologram that was made just for us).  However, our mistake in perception is that in watching the movie, we mistakenly identify not with the observer watching the movie, but with the character in the movie, and we live life experiencing the various events, feelings, and emotions which the "player" or the "I" character in the movie goes through as he or she grows from being an infant, to a toddler, all the way through life, which ultimately ends in the death of our character.

Now obviously this theory is just a model, and I have not yet reconciled what it means as far as Torah and Mitzvos, Hashem, and other "players."  Apparently, from what Robert Schienfeld or Stephen Davis seem to describe, there are no other players in my hologram, and taking on the extreme narcissistic point of view, everyone in my world was created to be a reflection of me (as if you all are "extras" in my movie, and vice versa).  Now obviously, this would only be from the point of view of my "player," and other players would be experiencing their "human experiences" through their own holograms where every person in their hologram (in this case, you as the player created me, Zoe Strickman the blogger to reflect yourself back to you) creates and experiences everyone else, even me, but if you are reading this, then I am your creation.  For now, I am assuming that there is a "common hologram" or "common world" -- holographic or not -- "in" which we all live, whether or not this "common world" is real, and as things stand, I can't make heads or tails of the theory of "there is no you, but only me," and I need to hash it out further to understand the implications.

G-d can easily still exist in a hologram-based existence.  Whether it is my Neshama (soul) or my higher consciousness (if there is such a thing) that is creating the holographic experience for me [or not], it could just as easily be one G-d that is creating all holographic experiences.  But, for reasons I don't yet understand, G-d is a creator of the "higher self" or "consciousness" (what I am calling my Neshama), and the model suggests that "He" is not the one creating our hologram for us to live in.  I think the reason for this is because we are not really "in" the hologram, but rather, we are experiencing "it" as an observer (which would logically put us "outside" of the hologram).  [I'm using quotes because I'm not sure the hologram is physical, but if I think of the double-slit experiment relating to quantum mechanics, I would posit that our hologram is a wave form in its natural state, but as we look at it, we become the "observer" and as such, we collapse the wave form into something we perceive as hard physical reality (e.g., I can bang on the wooden desk at which I am sitting, and I can hear the clicks of my laptop's keyboard as I type, but in reality, there may be no table, laptop, or keyboard -- by observing, I may simply be collapsing the table which exists as a wave form (presumably the Hebrew letters spelling "SHULCHAN" [shin, lamed, chet, nun]) in what I perceive to be a physical object in my hologram, but when I turn around, like a video game which only shows what is in front of the player's focus, the table might revert to the wave form (or the Hebrew letters from which they are comprised).]  But who knows.  I am hashing this out and will continue to do so for months to come.

The easy thing to understand in the holographic experience is Torah and Mitzvos.  The creator G-d created the Torah which can easily be the "blueprint" or the "field" which quantum physics refers to when it refers to the "zero point field" from which each person's personal hologram and/or their own personal "holographic universe" comes from.  In other words, every universe in the multiverse (assuming an infinite permutations of what can come out of the field, and hence an infinite number of holograms or so-called "physical" universes) which is created comes from the field, which, according to Judaism could easily be the Torah which G-d wrote.  We learn from the Midrash Rabbah in explaining the word "Bereishis" that "G-d looked into the Torah and created the world," [just as scientifically, a laser can be aimed at a hologram and out pops out a 3D holographic image.]  [Side note: Now read what Rabbi Akiva Tatz wrote in his article on with this new perspective.  Weird, huh?]  As such, as Jews, we understand that in every holographic universe, there are still rules (commandments) which are dictated by G-d and written into the blueprint which is Torah.  And, if Torah is the blueprint, then halacha and mitzvos are the structures and rules by which we are judged by our actions as positive and negative consequences in our world.

BUT that still doesn't preclude the fact that we are not necessarily "in" our hologram, but rather, we are observers of a "movie" to which we associate ourselves as the main character in that movie, without realizing that the being "in" the movie is living within the hologram that we have created (or that has been created for us).  As such, every emotion, feeling, and idea in the hologram (the "movie") is a THOUGHT which is projected into the "mind" of the player through whom we act in our "human experience;" in our holographic world.  And, because Hashem creates us and our world every single second (the world is not a lump of clay that has an inkling of its own existence), it could be understood that the holographic universe is not a stable "thing" that exists on its own;  rather, at every instant, BECAUSE Hashem is re-creating the holographic universe that we live in at every instant, in two seconds from now, he could create a universe where something has changed (a bird is now "placed" at the other side of a room), or where someone's mind changes (e.g., a potential business partner decides to work with you, or an enemy decides to make peace with you), or where some small "fact" is changed.  The holographic world we live in at 12:21pm might be a different world at 12:22pm because either G-d or our higher selves changed something in the programming code of the hologram.  (My intuition is that it is G-d who is looking into the field and creating our existence, but the current holographic-quantum-theory psychology suggests that G-d is merely the creator of everything including our consciousnesses (perhaps in Robert Scheinfeld's words, he is "pure creative essence,"), but [for some reason,] WE are the ones projecting our own holographic universes from the field, not G-d, and then we trick ourselves into thinking that the hologram is real.  This doesn't yet sit well with me, unless the suggestion is that he is teaching the concept of "ein od milvado," meaning that there is NOTHING BUT THE PURE CREATIVE ESSENCE, or in short, nothing but G-d.)

Just for fun, watch this thought taken from Rabbi Yisroel Ciner's article from Parshas Chaya Sarah [my comments in brackets]:
The Nesivos Sholom explains that it was Hashem's chessed which brought Him to create the world [think, "He creates our physical world as our own personal hologram"]. Hashem needed nothing but wanted to share His goodness with others. Furthermore, the world, having been created 'yesh ma'ayin' {something from nothing} is in the constant, perilous state of being unable to continue to exist on its own. It is only through a constant re-creation, every single second of time [think, so long as the supernal laser shines into the field and creates the hologram], through which Hashem's chessed (kindness) enables this world to continue to exist.
And now, read what Rabbi Avraham Kahn writes in a article on Parshas Tzaria-Metzorah, entitled, "The World Was Made For Me" [again, my comments in brackets]:

Everything for me
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) tells us that every person is obligated to say, "The world was created for me." [think, MY holographic "world" (meaning, holographic projection of my personal "human experience" which I (being the Neshama or consciousness OUTSIDE of the holographic projection) identify as my reality) was made for me (to act through, to do mitzvahs, to avoid aveiros, and to experience "a human experience" with all consequences of my actions.] Rashi explains that this should bring a person to think that if I am so important, and the whole world [or think, my holographic "human experience," or "my hologram"] was created just for me, then how could I think of doing even one transgression [e.g., why fight what is "wrong" within the world (e.g., I'm too fat, I don't have enough money, etc.) when everything (even reality itself) was made for my benefit.]. This attitude brings us to stop in our tracks whenever we have a choice to make. However, the arrogant may say that if the whole world was created for me, then I expect everyone and everything to serve my needs [if understanding the hologram FROM this section, it implies that even in my personal hologram which was made for my benefit and my spiritual growth, there is still a G-d and Torah, mitzvos, and halachas that we are obligated to follow]. Just like children who expect their every wish to be fulfilled, the arrogant expect that their needs will be treated with priority over everything else.

In sum for now, obviously I am working through the holographic world theory of reality which seems to be the current "self-help" theory of reality based on what people understand or misunderstand of our current understanding of quantum physics. To understand what I am talking about, go watch the "Holographic Universe" videos on, read one of Robert Scheinfeld's books, and then take one or more of his courses.  I must say that at the moment, it appears as if we differ as to the purpose of the holographic universe; it appears to me that the authors believe that "we created ourselves to have an experience [to experience stuff]," and understanding of the purpose of the holographic universe is to dogmatically reconcile what we appear to understand with the concepts of G-d, Torah, and Mitzvos.  However you believe and FOR WHATEVER PURPOSE the universe was created, for now, it appears as if there is no real and persistent physical universe, but rather, a "hologram" or "holographic blueprint" of what we call the physical universe -- what chassidus describes as the lowest world which is called "Asiyah" (which is spiritual), in which we mistakenly identify our true selves as being "the player" in the hologram rather than understanding and getting excited by the creation (or the creator of such a magnificent creation [with all its details and its unlimited depths]), and we perceive the creation as being "real."

Now to bring The Matrix movies into this, I could re-write this entire article, and every place I say the "hologram," you can supplement "the matrix" and you'd get a similar idea of the concept of a hologram.  However, where I differ from the Matrix movies is that I don't think that we are some "brain in a vat" experiencing or being "plugged in" (literally through our necks and our spines) into reality.  But rather, I am starting to think that as soon as we understand that "there is no spoon," we will not unplug, chos v'sholom, and we will not escape to an alternate world where we are eating slobber in ships that avoid robot machines who want to kill us.  But rather, once we learn the truth, we will start to live IN our hologram with a new set of rules.  Our world and our hologram will probably start to change because we will understand it better, and we will get an inkling as to what is outside of the hologram.

What I respected about the Holographic Universe videos is that the author (Stephen Davis) flat-out said that "we cannot know what is going on or what is really happening on the OTHER SIDE of the hologram because it is simply not accessible to us," meaning, our consciousness is firmly ROOTED "in" the hologram (or in other words, we are the observer who's eyes are glued to the screen upon which our world is being broadcast).  We cannot disengage or unplug from reality, and we cannot know whether the entity creating the hologram is G-d, an angel, our higher selves (if such things exist), our Neshamas (or some level of our souls), a guardian, or whatever.  All we know is that we are an observer "collapsing the wave" (more on this in another post) and experiencing "reality" through the player with whom we identify as "I."

I suspect that through meditation I can focus on [one glimpse at a time] the boundary-less "movie screen" upon which we project our holographic world.  This movie screen has no "up," no "down," no "left," and no "right."  Rather, we can imagine ourselves floating in any direction with no perception of "where we are on the screen of the movie screen," and the reason for this is because the movie screen is not a physical entity, but a spiritual entity without known boundaries.  So I could -- in my mind -- make flips, fly circles, etc. in my own mind-space (the "movie screen" upon which my hologram ("real world") is projected), and I wouldn't know whether I moved up or down because the screen goes on forever and ever in every direction.

Thinking of my movie screen is certainly exciting, but I don't think my consciousness can perceive anything farther back then that.  Maybe there is no movie screen either.


PS - On a personal note, isn't it interesting that when I was younger, I spent so much time reading Stanislav Grof's books,"The Holotropic Mind," and "The Adventure of Self-Discovery."  It was in the '90's, and as a college student, I was roaming through the University library, and I don't remember why, but I was pulled to his books.  For all I know the topics he writes about versus what I am discussing here are not related, but how cool would it be if they ARE related.  I spent so much time reading them, and now years later I find this stuff so relevant to my "path," as if I was shown hints of my path even many years ago. 

Healing pent-up feelings through release techniques.

I have been reading many books on anger lately because I would really like to get rid of the pent-up feelings I have been holding onto so tightly for so many years.  Obviously harboring such feelings is not good for my health, and it is certainly not good for my marriage or for the well-being of my children.  The goal is to be a more "calm" and loving father rather than a distracted father who gets headaches quite frequently.  It daunts me that when I exchange a cute smile with my now four-month-old infant that I get a whole-face headache as if I am in physical pain from the happiness.  Or, when I have a great time with the kids, my heart hurts and I find that I need time to recuperate as if I was just punched in the gut, as if painful memories that happened so many years ago creep up on me.

So I am seeing a therapist who is helping me with my anger and issues relating to having a difficult time connecting with people, and at my request, he is helping me see patterns in my current feelings that have their source in my past.  Why? So that I can learn to release and overcome the old feelings -- this appears to be the modern-day psychology version of "healing" -- so that my heart can open and so I can be "present" with my children and my wife and so that I can experience healthy feelings and interact with my family in ways that too will help them feel loved.

But man is this a painful thing to go through.  I know because for some reason, old feelings have been coming up out of nowhere saying, "take care of me too, please," and when they pass through me, it hurts and I want to cry.  Yeah, right, me cry.  I mean, they pass through me and I cringe my face in pain, close my eyes, and breath.  I think, "this is an old feeling that didn't get a chance to be expressed many years ago.  I am lucky to be experiencing this now because that means that the old feeling (whatever it related to) is now being healed."  What bugs me is that I know that it is my natural inclination to push the feelings away once again and prevent them from affecting me.  But I know that this is the reason I am closed emotionally, and this is the thing I need to "fix."

In my heart, I know that if I really want to make some headway in this "releasing" thing, I should probably dig up my old courses on the Sedona Method, because the whole concept taught by the Sedona Method was all about releasing feelings.

On a related note, I am also reading "the untethered soul" by Michael Singer, a book which also talks about releasing and a bunch more.  I have found it helpful in my search for resolving old feelings, and I am enjoying the book.

Lastly -- and I will go into this in more depth in another post -- the weird thing in my life is that in my search for healing and understanding of the world around me, it seems as if various "holographic" theory-type books keep finding their way to me.  I have also spent a lot of time reading Robert Scheinfeld's books on Phase 2 thinking -- a topic for a later post.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The difficulties in being a dysfunctional father.

As usual, it has been many months since I have written.  I am still running my law firm, still a father and a husband to my growing family, and still a functional member of my community.

However, nobody read about the "Zoe Strickman" character to learn about how "normal" he was.  Rather, you guys read my blog and followed it (sometimes for years) because of how dysfunctional I really am.  So here you go -- a bit of food.

First of all, I apologize for my explicit dislike of my own blog -- it symbolizes and exposes everything that is weak, bent, and broken in my life.  My secrets are here, and as I learned quite a while ago, my identity is known to a few of you who still read my posts.  Some of you live in my city, in my town.  Some of you take your kids to the same school as me, and yet when we see each other in the hallway, I know you know me and I know you, but I am too shy and/or embarrassed to open up to you because you know my secrets and you can share them with the world and destroy me.

Yes, secrets can destroy a person, and they have been eating away at me each day.  I have been very stressed lately -- vulnerable, and easy to anger.  My tolerance for stress has been very low lately, and I have been having a difficult time focusing at work or showing up for meetings.  I would rather hide in my cubicle at the office space I rent than meet potential clients because I have a difficult time being "on top of my game," or even sometimes being able to form coherent sentences.

I spend so much energy each night putting the kids to bed, and then instead of going to bed myself, I sit down at my laptop, turn on Netflix or play a game on Steam, and then the hours melt away from me, as does the stress and the tension of the day.  The problem becomes each night, I look at the clock when I finally crash a game from playing with the code and "modding" it to the point of instability, and it is often 2:30am or later.  Then in the morning, I am expected to wake up with the kids, feed them breakfast, make them lunches, and spend time with them until it is time for them to go to school.

The reason it is me who has taken on all the morning chores and the extra legwork rather than my wife doing what she ordinarily (extraordinarily) does is because my wife is resting because she was just up all night [yet again] feeding our newborn baby.

Proving to her that I am not a "subhuman" selfish husband (her words; I actually would have taken on all the extra tasks with happiness if I were only asked), I have been happy to take on the new role of father AND mother while my wife rests from the birthing process.

If I were a better person (or if I were given the ability to be HUMAN or PSYCHIC, I would have not been oblivious to the fact that my wife was recovering from the birthing process and the day she returned from the hospital, I would have sent her upstairs and I would have done everything she does without getting into a fight over what a terrible husband I was for not taking on tasks without being asked.  As the moronic husband, after running around non-stop while she was in the hospital recovering from giving birth, when she returned two days later, I mistakenly assumed that since she was home from the hospital -- no epidural, on her feet immediately afterwards -- that she was back and ready to bathe the kids and resume her regular activities, and I would resume mine.  I even took two days off from the law firm calling it "unpaid paternity" where I stayed home with her and the kids so that she wouldn't be alone with them, but it obviously was not enough.  I honestly didn't realize that I was supposed to be the hero who does everything I do -- run a firm, help with the house, play with the kids, etc. -- AND also do everything she does so that she could rest and bond with the baby after coming home from the hospital.)  FYI, this was also right before Pesach, so everything was disorganized to start with both at home and at work -- I had cancelled meetings, client matters that needed to be closed up for the holidays, deadlines, and... the birth of our daughter.

Yes, we are on our sixth child.  Our children go to yeshiva, and my oldest child is now seven years old.  Our children sing Torah songs that they learned in school, and they fight over who plays with what toy, or who sat in who's spot at the table.  They are very good children, and I love them dearly.  However, I have been distant, and my wife has noticed my lower tolerance for stress these past few months.

She has urged me to see a psychologist to resolve my past family issues, and in the past, I have refused because I could not justify spending hundreds of dollars on myself.  Last year, we went to marriage counseling at $160 per session, and we went for quite a few months every week, and it certainly helped.  We learned some really good skills and techniques for getting along, but after everything was said and done, we learned how to be "civil" with each other and to diffuse fights before they happen.  We have not, however, developed the close intimate relationship that a husband and wife should have with each other.  We certainly trust each other and lean on each other, but I don't always consider her a friend, and rarely does she willingly confide in me about her feelings.  Even asking about the events of her day seems to be intrusive on her privacy.

I also don't open up to her because every time I have, she has judged me or stepped on me.  I have in the past few days decided to get help for my inner struggles / issues relating to being able to connect with other people (as she calls it), and it was only as of this afternoon that I think that I've found a therapist.  I meet with him next week.

The funny thing is that I didn't want to tell my wife the name of my therapist because I did not want her to jump to conclusions about his specialties.  This therapist deals with adolescent and family issues relating to abuse, and he also deals with "issues of attachment and bonding" and "disorders of intimacy" -- things that are right up my alley as far as getting help with my issues. I also don't really want to open up to her about the content of my conversations with my therapist.  We have been married for EIGHT YEARS now, and I really don't feel like being judged, criticized, or put down.

What I cannot share is that I have been so wound up these past few months (and really, these past few years) because I have been angry at my own failings as a human being, as a father, and as a husband.  My lack of a connection with my wife hurts me, and I don't know what to do that I have an unhealthy relationship with my wife.  We went to marriage counseling last year, but we ended it because my wife ended it.  She flat-out told the therapist that she had no interest in working on her relationship with me, and that my relationship with her was simply not important to her and that it was the children alone that were the focus of her life (and she meant it; I was merely a tool or a piece of meat [an indentured servant] to go to work and put food on the table).  On that note, the therapist told her that she could not continue if both parties were unwilling to work on the relationship.  It was also our contention to end the marriage counseling because we hit a wall -- we did not feel as if we were benefiting from the sessions any more as they were getting repetitive.  On my end, I felt that there was an inequality in the focus of the sessions because I was usually the punching bag of our sessions, and my objections were almost never considered and/or worked on.

My experience of the marriage counseling was this -- I had an issue I wanted to work on in the relationship.  She complained that I did not do X, Y, or Z.  The therapist somehow convinced me to do X, Y, or Z, and the session ended.  Rinse and repeat, week after week.  At the end of our sessions, I was (and still am...) no longer working my law firm even 30 hours a week, I was no longer working past 6pm or 7pm, and I was waking up with the kids, making them lunches, and then coming home for the arduous exercise of getting them to bed.  I dropped all aspirations of finding a new area of law or making more money than what automatically came in by the grace of G-d, and I have been showing up to work a zombie, and I have been coming home and putting the kids to bed only to collapse in front of my laptop after their bedtime.

"Go to sleep you idiot!" you might scream at me.  Well, if I did not have my nights and my evenings to play video games and/or relax, I don't think I would survive.  Rather, I think I would die of boredom and unhappiness for the routine dullness of my life.  It is funny how I call my large and unusually busy life boring, but I find that it lacks meaning.  I don't even like to daven (pray) and my spiritual life is lifeless.  My kids are loving and kind, and they need and crave my warmth and loving attention, but while I do love spending time with them, usually I find myself simply looking for activities and/or time wasters so that we can get to bedtime.  Since the baby has been born, I have taken them to the zoo twice, I have taken them bowling, and I have taken them to the park... all five of them.  These were Sunday activities and "kids are home for Pesach break" activities.  We all had a blast at these events, but I had a hard time not obsessing over them touching toilets when they peed, or touching walls, fences, and gates which I know are never cleaned and are probably full of thousands of various kinds of bacteria, and I'm really in no mood for another bout of "pink eye" which circulates around the family for a days at a time, going from child-to-child, no matter how many times we nag them to wash their hands over and over again.

Page stats surprise.

Wow... I wrote only like 3 articles last year, and I just looked at my traffic stats after writing the most recent article (it sort of popped up on its own when I went to the dashboard).

40-60 page views each day, every day!

Whoa, I cannot believe people still read this thing.