Wednesday, June 11, 2014

So What, Who Cares? My Therapist Is Making Me Hate My Family!

Dear Erin:

My therapist is making me hate my family, and resent them for all the things I don't have (read: qualities, not possessions). She wants my mom to come to a session with me. That sounds unbelievably painful in the sense that I will have to listen to her martyr sob story.   I love this therapist and don't know what I would do without her.  But is this OK?  Is putting me through a painful session with my mother -- and turning me against them -- a good idea for someone trying to help me?

Family Issues

Dear Family Issues:

There’s an old saying about therapy: You spend the first five years talking about how everyone disappointed you, and the next five years talking about how you disappointed everyone else.  I can’t remember where I heard that saying. I probably stole it from my husband, from whom I get most of my best quips.  Yet I think this quip has the advantage of being not only clever, but true -- at least, in a metaphorical sense.    And as a motto for dealing with family issues, it may be helpful for you to keep it in mind.

Therapy is painful.  Conventional talk therapy is easily the second most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.  It ranks far behind the first most painful thing, which was the hospitalization of my infant children.  But it comes out well ahead of the third thing: natural childbirth.  Emotional pain is different than physical pain, of course.  It can be more entangled, deeper, and more enduring.  But I would gladly sign up for nine more hours of natural childbirth than nine more years of couch talk.   That is true even if this hypothetical birth once again involved Dr. Silverstein, who walked over to my face during a particularly hard contraction and screamed at me to get my shit together.   Or maybe not.  Whatever.  That’s how I remember it.

One thing that makes therapy so painful is that it forces us to think about how our parents – the people who were supposed to love us unconditionally – disappointed us.   And not just to think about that disappointment, but feel it.   It doesn’t help much to know that nobody is unique in this disappointment.  Because nobody is perfect.  And some people are more imperfect than others.  But unconditional love from even slightly imperfect people can still feel disappointing and painful to a child.   And when we start to trace our current shortcomings back to our earliest relationships and formative experiences, it’s impossible not to get very, very angry at the people who were supposed to keep the pain away.  

In some cases, "five years" won’t actually be enough.  Some family problems are too severe.  Some adult failures are too unforgivable.  Some love is so conditional – and the disappointments so profound -- that they leave people with holes in their personalities that may never go away.   But ideally, most people will spend enough time in therapy facing down the pain of childhood disappointment that they eventually get to another place.   In that place – where the emotional wounds are no longer so raw, and the inner child has been sort of adopted by the adult self --  you can start to move forward with an emotional lightness.  In that place, you can start to address your shortcomings in a more positive, productive way.  That second period of “five years” is about realizing how your disappointed inner child has been a buzzkill for your spouse, a burden for your friends, or an obstacle to your own aspirations.

If you like your therapist, then I think you should trust her.   Facing your feelings in the same room with your mom will be painful. OMG, will it be painful!   It is highly likely that she will double down on everything you hate about her, and make you feel small and scared and exhausted all over again.  It's conceivable that she will set you back in emotional progress for a while.   Or maybe she’ll surprise you.  But either way, if your mom is willing to do it, then I say: why not?  Facing your feelings about her is a bridge you have to cross, anyway.  Her participation will just get you across that bridge faster.   Nobody can guarantee that your relationship will become stronger in the end.  Nobody can promise that she will change.  But the beauty of therapy is this: That’s not the point!   By facing your inner child, you’ll stop caring as much if your family is disappointing you.   You’ll stop reacting to their failures and imperfections so intensely.  Even if it’s more painful at first, won’t that place be better than the sad, disappointed, lacking, hating place you’re sitting in right now?  

The world is full of disappointment.  Getting emotionally healthier isn’t going to change that fact.  It’s simply going to help you move past your disappointment more effectively -- so you aren’t wallowing in it, or inflicting it on other people.   I’m not a therapist.  But I think you’re on the right track.  And if I were your mother, I’d be very proud of you for that.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Mescal Thing

The Mescal Thing
2 oz Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal
1 oz Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila
Juice of 2 limes and 1 lemon
1 oz orange syrup reduction
Orange bitters

If you’ve never tasted Mescal, there are three possible explanations for your cosmic lapse.  

The first and most likely is that you just aren’t cool.   In the last decade or so, hipsters have discovered their mixology repertoires weren't complete without the Lagavulin of Mexican distilled agave drinks.  To meet this pressing demand, American entrepreneurs started to import Mescal in much larger quantities.  I've heard that it's cooler to drink mescal straight up, as the Mexican producers of it do, rather than mixing it.   But of course, the fact that I know anything about Mescal is  just incontrovertible proof that it's fast on its way to being no longer cool.   So there's that.

Another explanation for your mescal oversight is that you don’t like tequila.   I get it.  I don’t like broccoli and that’s healthy too.   But what you need to know is that Mescal is like a really smooth, smoky tequila made from the fermented mash of pit oven roasted maguey plant hearts.  Technically, some people will say, it’s not tequila at all.  To me, that’s like saying a slider isn’t technically a hamburger.  Technically, maybe not.  It’s like a smaller, more expensive, tastier version of the form.   But does anybody ever really need more than an 1/8 pound of ground sirloin at a time?   I mean, outside of Wisconsin. The answer is no.

A third explanation for your mescal problem might be that you don’t want to buy an artisanal distilled alcoholic beverage imported all the way from Oaxaca, Mexico.   Cuz it's expensive.  And that’s a good reason not to buy it.   I'm not going to argue with it either.   Personally, I refuse to buy fancy patio furniture.  We aren't made of money.  Fancy chairs that get rained on?  No.  But I have my priorities.  And most of them are related to alcohol.  OK, that sounded wrong.  But seriously, mescal is the Lagavulin of agave drinks.   The slider of tequilas.   The pit oven roasted fermented mash of cool. 

I mixed some Del Maguey mescal recently into a drink that I served before a Mexican meal.  I’ve been teaching myself to cook Mexican food.  Why?  Well, it’s a widely known fact that I am obsessed with Mexican food.  That’s because while French food is good, and Italian food is tasty, and Japanese food is extremely yummy, Mexican food was invented by the God of Food You Never Get Sick Of.   You can eat an avocado in lime juice with melted cheese and crispy fresh corn tortillas every day for a week, then want that same meal again the next week and the next week after that.   You can't say that about lasagna.  Scientific fact. Look it up.   

In one respect, this drink recipe is tricky.  And not particularly fair.  Because my mom candied the orange peels for me.  She brought me not only the candied oranges, but also a mason jar full of the bittersweet orange syrup that she cooked them in.  Why did she do this?  Because she knows I am crazy about homemade mixers.  Of course she does.   It's her fault I'm like this.   

So, if you want to make this drink, you need to first candy some orange peels and save the syrup.  Another option is just to make a homemade sour mix with this recipe, and mix in some extra sugar and orange bitters.   I used orange bitters too, but you could use more.   The drink is basically a margarita, with a twist.  I know I've featured a margarita in this column before.  But the margarita was invented by the God of Drinks you Never Get Sick of.   And if you serve these drinks (as I did) with chipotle tacos, lump crab guacamole, mango salsa, pico de gallo, trout escabeche – and creamy alcoholic margarita popsicles for dessert – you will see the light.   

A note on presentation.  I used the candied orange peels as an edible garnish.   Also, I recently kicked my bar service up a notch by purchasing a new ice cube mold.  This is the one I bought.  It makes neato ice balls that (if you have a wide mouthed rocks glass) are perfect for keeping a cocktail cold without the slushy melting mess.  I felt like this ice made a huge difference in enjoying this drink.  But chilling the ingredients before mixing -- and enjoying it up (without ice) -- would be good too. 

A final note on this drink title.  I named/copied this drink after a cocktail I enjoyed at Heritage Tavern in Madison recently, called The Malort Thing.  This isn’t a post about Malort.  So that's all I'm going to say about that.  But you should try that too.  It’s the Mescal of weird Chicago drinks that taste like grapefruit rinds.

                                                          Arriba, Abajo, al centro, pa dentro!