Welcome! What's this human’s life like? Just like yours: too much to handle gracefully. Here you’ll find writing on the epic theme: What now? I post weekly-ish. Except when I don’t.



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What's In A Name? Revisited

Portrait of the Artist As A Middle-Aged WomanThis blog began in 2010 as Shrink Unwrapped, an amusing title, as well as evocative. For four years, I posted one essay weekly.   Because I wasn’t writing directly about my day job, the following question nagged me with increasing pressure: Is being a shrink essential to who I am that the blog title should reference it? 

Me-That-Knows answered without answering: You Are.  Me-That-Must-Analyze said, YES, the backstory justifies the title. Definitely. She’s always definite. So…. What’s with the too-warm-in-a-wool-sweater-itchy-picky-squirmy feeling? 

Let me approach the question from the other side. What IS it like being a shrink? 

Well. Being a psychiatrist is not neutral, like say, being a librarian or plumber.  Along with the competence that comes from carrying life and death responsibility, the role carries a heady perfume of Answering-The-Call and Doing-Good. I do valuable work; therefore, I AM valuable. Very seductive.  That’s balanced, of course, by the reality that I am only human, therefore, flawed and cracked (To let in the light?). 

The work is consuming. As residents working hundred-hour weeks, we joked: The longer you stay, the longer you stay. As if that would change when the residency ended. 

There’s the momentum of thirty years, my adulthood. Inertia is a force unto itself.

The more you know, the more there is to know.  The more people you help, the more there are to help. To be a healer is to be given access to infinity.

I asked myself: Should I ground in that? Merge with infinity? My body shuddered: Moth to flame! Danger! Danger! OK. Someone else will have to be the next Mother Teresa.

I want to go deeply into one thing for a lifetime, just as Donald Westlake wrote or Georgia O’Keefe painted or my friend Naomi tai chi-s. But it’s not my way. I am given to enthusiasms, some decades-long. And, I keep adding. With each new thing, I ask anew: Is this It? Is this Me? Something in me remains persistently befuddled. Reader: Essential, yes, but not all. Wife and Mother: Ditto. Doctor: DittoWriter: Really? Dancer! No! Artist: Get out of town.

This started in kindergarten when the teacher (It’s all her fault.) handed me a sheet of paper as if she were giving me a present, “This is your name!”

I got all excited. I decoded the squiggles into individual letters: D a n i e l a… What…??  Dismay swamped me. The letters floated blackly on the whiteness of the page. This is Me? Before that, my name and I were one. After, two. There was no going back. I became, for better and worse, self-conscious. 

Loss of innocence aside (It had to happen. Oh, well.), names are useful. As a symbol of a thing’s essence, names specify, speed and smooth social transactions. When picking up a pizza, going through airport security, or hearing Hubby bellow for me from outside the house, Daniela gets my attention far better than Hey You!   

And like clothes, names shield from weather, and drop hints about the values and agenda of the wearer. Which brings me back to the blog rename. As a title, Shrink Unwrapped did the job, with a touch of super-cape. I admit to a pang letting it go.

Briefly, I went with Plan Be, loose and slouchy. No worries about the dust on my butt after a pratfall. Yet, it proved to be another itchy wool sweater. 

Then I read Austin Kleon’s Share Your Work, the follow up to his best-seller, Steal Like An Artist. He titled his blog with his name: AustinKleon.com, and suggested I, his reader, do the same: give my blog my name. 

Duh, said Me-That-Knows.

Of course! said Me-That-Must-Analyze. It covers all iterations: past, present and future. It allows for change without changing.

"Flowing water never stagnates, and the hinges of an active door never rust."   ~Confucius 


Dr. D’s Residency Survival Guide

New Yorker,4/28/14, cartoon caption contest winnerDedicated to Cousin Sammy— Excuse me, Doctor Sam— and the rest of you fresh-faced med-school grads staring down the dark gun-barrel of residency training. This too shall pass. 

Thank you for dedicating your lives to the health of others.  Don’t forget to take care of your own!  It’s good work: necessary, essential, and challenging. Without you, we’re screwed.  




Dr. D’s Residency Survival Guide

 Keep in white-coat pocket. Consult p.r.n.

Never miss an opportunity to:

  • eat
  • drink water
  • answer Nature’s call
  • sleep 
  • laugh

Never believe:

  • “This will only take a minute.”
  • “This is an easy one.”

Never make your senior resident/attending look bad.

Be warned:

  • The longer you stay, the longer you stay.
  • If you ask a question, the attending will say, “Why don’t you look that up and tell us about it at rounds tomorrow.”
  • Better an irritated higher-up than a dead patient.

Help out. Those who return the favor, keep close.

Be friendly and courteous to everyone. Allies hide in full view.

Trust your gut.

When in doubt, take your own pulse. 



Spring Forward

March— bright

beads slung over a thin

wool skin


The sun stretches its rays and jumps out of bed seconds earlier each day, the light blinding off the snow. I watch my step on the white-masked ice of the driveway. The wind bites. For a year, the payroll clerk cut herself the weekly check she wanted, not earned. The brass of it. The subzero air burns, burns. We don’t dally, Hubby and I, protecting our hardscrabble eighteen-year shrink biz. We look her in the eye and fire. She slams the door, and birdsong streams in. Evil zero: Good won! Why is it some people live by preying on others? Still morning, and already I have accomplished something huge. It’s a pleasure to expand my ribs to the max with each breath. 


PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Bergin


Not to be missed