Tag Archives: mental illness

Tuesday Morning Press 18 — Achievement Vs. Recognition


One of my favorite moments in the film, “A Beautiful Mind” was when the Judd Hirsch character Dr. Helinger (who was the department chair at Princeton where Russell Crowe’s character, the protagonist John Nash), took an agitated and confused doctoral candidate Nash to the mathematics department tea room at the university.

In the hallway just at the entry to the tea room, Helinger and Nash discussed Nash’s lack of work, which resulted in threatening his PhD candidacy as well as his appointment to a coveted position at the prestigious Wheeler Institute at MIT after attaining said PhD.

Helinger interrupted Nash’s clucking and excuses and barters for more time and he tersely instructed him to look at a gentleman, presumably a senior mathematics professor of some countenance sitting alone at a table covered by a draping ecru linen tablecloth in this gorgeous room of soaring coffered ceilings, wrought iron glass windows, Norman moldings, and cherrywood walls.

What they were witnessing was “the ceremony of the pens” which I just learned this very second upon researching it that it was completely fictitious. Well… that sort of blows the moment, doesn’t it?

ANYWAY, in the now-discovered fictitious moment (despite its significance to me and this post — this revelation is totally killing my buzz on the movie, by the way), the ceremony was to make big noise deal to smart someone teacher long time who’d done has math real good at college the.

Shit, I don’t even feel like writing well anymore.

What the what?! Really? Resist urge to edit and start all over. This is not what I do… I write IN the moment.

Excuse me a moment. Please hit play:

ONWARD… there is a point to all this: Nash is frantic, begging for more time; Helinger essentially says shut up and watch the now entirely fictitious frigging ceremony of the #)(%@_! pens.

When the fictitious ceremony was over, Helinger immediately asked Nash what he saw. Nash supposedly blurted reflexively, “recognition.”

Helinger supposedly corrected him and firmly said, supposedly thrusting his fake right fist, “No. Achievement.”

Hell, I don’t know what to believe. Curse you, director Ron Howard! I do know that Hirsch did thrust his fist for emphasis at the Nash character in that building when the cameras were rolling to show a moment of truth whilst witnessing a completely made-up ceremony at an Ivy-League university.

On Mars.

The point is, as it doesn’t matter what I’ve researched since starting this post (honestly, I was just trying to get the name of the Hirsch character and to learn the real name for the fake ceremony of the pens), is that achievement is more important than recognition.

Because Judd Hirsch said so.

This brings me to my current moment of self-actualization (and  the post would’ve been a lot shorter had the entire ceremony not been made up…I’m letting this go…NnnnnnNnN).

My point: yes. Achievement matters more than recognition. Recognition is a construct of the ego; it requires outside validation and external gratification and it will hardly ever be enough; it’s constant and never ending. Think Madonna. Think Schwarzenegger and Stallone at the Golden Globes:

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 10.33.18 AM

Better yet… don’t. My apologies. Wow. That’s gonna stay in my mind for a while.

It’s all well and good to want to be recognized for our work; but that shouldn’t be the goal.

Achievement is an actual experience: it is quantified and reliable internally and measured by a sense of accomplishment and pride by creating something or doing something that matters to us. It is largely a private experience. Achievement and accomplishment can build upon themselves as well and that’s good. We want to feel good about what we do; it’s nice… but does lack of recognition invalidate our achievements? No. Who cares if no one notices. Really… think about it. Like this: because that pens ceremony was completely made up does its message take away its significance? Maybe. No.

So this leads me to another self-acutalization, not based on a fictitious ceremony (sorry, I’m still pretty steamed about that): in order to build more pride and more enthusiasm for what we do (I’m really talking to myself here, you’re just sticking around to see if I come up with anything of any real value): we need to feel good about what we have done. I’ve been noticing this:

When someone asks me what I do, I usually sigh-speak, “I am a SAHM, but…” and that’s wrong. I need to build value and esteem into what I do here as a mother of three boys, because guess what: this gig is tough. I vacillate on this, clearly, I’ve written about it before, but the point is this, and I’m feeling closer now than the last time I dipped in this pool: I’m doing a good job. My kids are healthy, smartasses, and clever. They have friends, they have outlets and they don’t return the tools they borrow or bring their laundry down. This is all normal behavior. RIGHT?!

Instead of kicking a rock every time I think about the entirely huge reality that my book won’t outsell the Bible (especially not if I never publish it a*hem, Molly…) I need to be OK with the fact that I wrote one because that’s a big deal. (But… it would be nice to put it to bed and see what happens… Nnnn. That’s semi-recognitionistic isn’t it?)

These are the ideas that are floating around my head since giving up Facebook for Lent. I’m pretty cool with that decision; I haven’t thought in status-update mode yet today.

So here we are. Feel good about what you Have Done so that you will feel good about what you Will Do. We all have to start somewhere. I’m not looking for a pen medal (that’s good, because now I feel better that John Nash doesn’t have all those pens because… that would be wrong). But Nash did win the Nobel Prize in 1994.

I’m looking for self-satisfaction. That’s tough these days what with everyone seeking their 15 minutes of fame. It’s hard to know the difference. Or it used to be… I think I’m getting a handle on it. Self-satisfaction with personal achievement means you’re good with what’s going on; that if you kicked the bucket, you’d be OK with how your life has turned out, based on your own assessment.

If you haven’t seen the film, you should. It’s largely true; Nash did have schizophrenia and he has overcome it, and he is still affected by hallucinations. Here’s a nice moment that likely never happened:

The take away is this: be happy and proud of what you’ve done. If nothing else: it keeps the flow of good energy going in the universe and that, my friends, is HUGE.

Thank you.

Don’t Go There… Really…


I thought I was over this. I thought I could stop writing about this, but I can’t.

There was a brilliant Op-Ed in the NY Times about the confusion these days surrounding the link to autism and other spectrum disorders as being contributing factors to the slayings in Newtown, Connecticut, not even a week ago.

Please read it. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/opinion/dont-blame-autism-for-newtown.html?_r=0

Please digest it. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/opinion/dont-blame-autism-for-newtown.html?_r=0

Please share it. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/opinion/dont-blame-autism-for-newtown.html?_r=0

I have introverts in my extended family – I’m sure you do too. Are these people evil? I have a family member with autism. I have two sons who are introverts and all three of these boys are some of the most sensitive, kind, insightful and smart people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I know lots of quiet kids. Are we really going there? Autism? Have you seen the movie “Temple Grandin“?

The Week magazine ran this article about Asperger’s syndrome and how it affects people who have it.

The thought that these children could ever be linked into the kind of rabid and senseless thinking that engenders fear, hate, confusion, misunderstanding and prejudice – based on the conjecture and armchair (swear alert) bullshit coming out of the media and any psychologist or its ilk to garner attention in the wake of these terrible, terrible shootings is indicative of our own inner need to blame something, anything – anything at all – to separate ourselves and our loved ones from the atrocities committed not even one week ago.

Think about yourself. Think about your own fears, and your own rages and your own capacity for violence. I’m not quiet; I can be. Does it mean I’m plotting evil when I’m quiet? No. Does it mean I’m awesome and super cool totally dependable when I’m not quiet? Uhhh… no.

To all the people who will now and forever look askance at the quiet or mindful people: open your minds.

To all the people who view sadness or moodiness or outbursts as the flawless, pinpoint, and laser-guided accurate harbinger of mass violence: open your hearts.

If you’ve never had a moment ever in your life when you’ve been Just So Mad You Could Break Something, nor can you relate to someone who has, please leave this blog and never come back.

If you’ve never felt (or have suppressed or denied ever feeling) betrayed, ashamed, alone, misunderstood, confused or self-destructive as though you wish the world never existed: go away; you’re too cool for me.

If you’ve never had a day, where nothing seems to go right and you just want to start all over or wipe it off your data banks, again: please leave this blog and never come back; you clearly have all the answers.

I have no time to try to reach you or to get you to understand how awful some people feel sometimes. How utterly alone some people feel, how completely disposable some people feel. How your neighbor might want to hurt herself; or drink too much; or cut himself. Or you: if you tie one on or pop a couple pills to get over your pain or forget about your sadness yet you deny it. Please, go away and please don’t come back. Really: go. I don’t need you to read my stuff or to “get” where I’m coming from. You’re in your place where everything is … of your own concoction; your own cocktail of bliss and denial.

For all our supposed connectivity in this world, we are vastly isolated in our iPods, iPhones, iPads, iLives – I have esteem for Steve Jobs, I think what he’s brought to the world is great but what he brought to the world is only revolutionary because he told us it was. But iRonically, what these devices also engendered to an iNcreasingly diSconnected world is iSolation, iNdifference, iNdependence, iNadequacy. From these protective iMembranes, our little worlds, we get to separate, point fingers and do anything but relate. We get to blame.

Now is not the time – no, you know what? Never is it the time to blame other people while forgetting that you too possess sadness, feelings of isolation, feelings of despair, feelings of woe.

I pray for Adam Lanza and people like him. I’ve seen people and I’ve known people who are mentally unhealthy. I’ve thought, “Wow, s/he’s really screwed up, this must be really hard for her,” but I’ve never thought that because of this: that his impotence, or being left-handed, autistic, a loner, a genius, on the spectrum, illiterate, right-handed, connected, disconnected, a hard-rock music lover, an introvert, a blues lover, a scientist, an idiot, mentally disabled, mentally abled, bald, tall, skinny, short, fat, white, black, green, purple — makes him or her a killer in development.

Because guess what? At times, I am sad, I am disconnected, I am skewed, I am lost. I do go inside my head. I do wish some things didn’t hurt so damned much. I want to give up, not hurt myself or others, but you know: just walk away. Throw up my arms. Screw the cat boxes, forget the stupid project.

I have those super deep and sad feelings. But I attend to them; I have the tools to attend to them, overcome them. I have experience from years, people, years of therapy to overcome those thoughts of isolation and sadness.

But for people who possess those dark feelings and they go unattended, they grow. I have read blog entries by people whose children and their capacity for rage and violence frighten them. They are terrifying. I hear this: she was a gun fanatic, so naturally, this was Mrs. Lanza’s fault for having guns in the house with a kid who is having problems. Blame?! Are we really going there?? She’s dead and so is he. So uh… STOP the blaming. It’s just another tool to wedge (it’s called “comparing out”) between ourselves and the reality that people everywhere are hurting.

I don’t think we will ever ever ever be in a place where we can assign blame. Those days are over. Blame is in the past. Blame is last week and it solves nothing. And this matter is not ours. Comparing out and preaching our suppositions that the mentally ill need to be “locked up” and the autistic need to be watched and suspected and “put away” and “taken out of our society” robs the honor and memory of those beautiful people who died and were called home. It makes it about “us” and “our needs” and “our” fears. Well, if you’re afraid: ADMIT it and talk to someone, anyone. I’m sure you’re not alone.

You know who’s allowed to be afraid right now? Children are allowed to be afraid right now; students and teachers are allowed to be afraid right now: we must tend to them. You know who’s not really allowed to feel afraid right now? Me. I am concerned, I am anxious but I have to get out of my own head. So we must be leaders: we must listen to those who are worried and scared and concerned and do our best to help them stay in the moment, see that nothing is happening to them right now. Build on that. Give them hope. Give them the confidence to Be OK With What Is.

We can not stop these events – there was no way anyone could ever predict this type of thing in classrooms at Virginia Tech, at the high school in Columbine, at the movie theater in Aurora, at the mall in Portland, at the temple in Wisconsin – we say these things are unimaginable. They are not unimaginable to those who commit them. They are all too real. Those people need our help: these things don’t happen until they happen. These people are those killers until they kill.

compassion |kəmˈpaSHən|


sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: the victims should be treated with compassion.

There are signs: we must be willing to be compassionate enough to reach out and help them. You know who would tell us what to do? Those first graders: they’d tell us to get up and make a friend. Talk to the kid who’s all alone at the lunch table. Offer your hand in friendship. Sadly, the most honest people, the most fearless people — the ones who know everything that we can be doing to make this world a better place: the little kids, are the ones we sometimes listen to the least. Because we’re grown-ups, because we have all the answers, because we’ve got experience. Because we are afraid of being vulnerable.

Another great piece in that liberal rag is this one: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/nyregion/25-lessons-about-first-graders.html

What we need to do is look inward and find compassion; look inward and dissolve our fear of vulnerability.  Take that step, be that strong. It takes guts to show our hearts. The mental health care system in our country needs changing. This is obvious. That it took those little kids to be the emblem for new and intelligent legislation and change makes me deeply sad. That all the other events weren’t enough to get people out of their seats and demand change and that those little kids and their teachers had to die is the proverbial grand piano crashing on to the sidewalk outside the apartment building.

The thought that “introverts” and “loners” are being categorized for this type of stuff makes my head dizzy:

Larry Page, Rosa Parks, Marcel Proust, Eleanor Roosevelt, J.K. Rowling, Charles Schulz, Steven Spielberg, Steve Wozniak, W.B. Yeats, Warren Buffett, Dale Carnegie, Frédéric Chopin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Al Gore, Sir Isaac Newton, and George Orwell were not murderers. If Ludwig Von Beethoven were around today, he’d be locked up and drugged. What about Helen Keller? She’d be the same. We need to open our eyes and our hearts. One reported “statistic” based on wild and baseless conjecture does not a murderer make. Jesus, people. Wake up. I am  so sad for those people with spectrum disorders and their caregivers. It’s so wrong. What’s next? Should we tattoo them like the nazis did with the Jews? I know I’m being rhetorical and extreme, but my heart is sad.

The change begins with us. The change is there: for us to reach out, ask how people are doing, help them with their bags in from the store. How hard can it be to reach out? Pretty hard apparently. If you need help: ask for it. If you know someone who needs help, give what you can.

I hope I have gotten this out of my system for now. Newtown has forever changed me. Instead of making me afraid, I am more convicted than ever to live and be kind. Please go here and sign this petition: http://www.wearebetterthanthis.org/index.cfm

Thank you.