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[FTNB EXCLUSIVE]

Dr. Matt Conner

Even though Movember is over, our commitment to our readers health, mental and otherwise, is far from over. I would like to share Dr. Matt Conner’s final Movember contribution with you. If you haven’t seen his previous articles, I would highly recommend reading his take on avoidance, baggage, and boundaries. Today we learn about responsibility.

I was telling Matt that I’ve learned some of these lessons myself over the years, though I haven’t been able to articulate them as eloquently or succinctly as he has. Other insights he shared were revelations to me. Which is weird, because they are all so simple and make so much since, but unless you’re actively thinking or aware of them it is often difficult to see these simple solutions in emotionally-charged situations.

There are certainly relationships and problems I have had in the past, that it would have been wonderful to have Dr. Matt’s advice in my toolkit. But, as we learn today, I shouldn’t lament the mistakes of the past. I can only learn lessons, move forward, and apply them in situations to come.

If you found these articles helpful, please join me in thanking Dr. Conner in the comments on this and his other articles. He doesn’t know this yet, but I plan to ask him to continue contributing these on a monthly or any other temporal basis he desires; because these have been truly wonderful. I am grateful for his friendship and taking the time to share with us all here.

Jared A. Godar

In the first three weeks of Movember, we covered avoidance, baggage, and boundaries. My plan was to cover responsibility for the fourth week, I swear. But I didn’t, and Jared offered to post my last article a week late. And I’m going to explain that as an example of responsibility, but in the meantime, check out this amazing track by Ron Pope—the themes have a lot in common. You’ll see.

Remember last time I talked about the language of boundaries: I am not responsible for my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs; and I have no control over any other person’s. But I am accountable for my decisions. I can’t help it if you remind me of my third-grade teacher who was so mean. You didn’t know her, you didn’t get that haircut on purpose; but hey, I see the connections I see. What I can help is whether I choose to let my attention stay on those thoughts or make an effort to redirect to you, right now, in this space, whatever your haircut looks like. What I can help is whether I shift into closed-off body language or fake like I’m fine or say, “I’m so sorry, you remind me of someone I used to know, this is weird. Anyway, what were we talking about?” See? I can’t take responsibility for your choices, nor can I give up responsibility for mine.

I couldn’t say if I loved her
or if we were not there yet
we were young
and living on lies and cigarettes

Ron Pope—”Lies and Cigarettes”

Something I see in a lot of the people who come to my clinic is regret. Men talk about having cheated on their spouses, having gotten away with small crimes, having picked a college for a dumb reason and then had to live with that decision. We touched this in the piece about baggage, holding on to memories of the one that got away. But what happens when you’re holding on to bad behavior? When you were “young and living on lies and cigarettes?”

Well, if it’s affecting you in 2018, then 2018 is a great year to take some responsibility for it. If it’s a bad decision you’re still making, you are responsible for recognizing it and seeking the help you need to stop. One of the most frustrating challenges for a therapist is when someone wants to simultaneously maintain the affair he’s in as well as a healthy, happy, relationship with the spouse he’s lying to. It’s common practice in these situations to halt therapy until the client can make up his mind about which side he wants help with—ending the affair and fixing the problems in the marriage that made him vulnerable to it, or keeping the affair and honestly admitting to his partner that he is finding love and sex outside their agreement and that they either need to change their expectations about monogamy or break up. I know, “it’s not that simple.” But it’s not that much more complicated, Casanova.

Let’s say you’ve already done that. You made a decision, it stopped, but you’re haunted by having made it. You kept dating that person a couple months after you realized you didn’t love her. You fudged a number on your 2014 taxes. You “wasted” time on a grad degree you’re not using now. You flip through old Facebook posts and see a comment that looks so racist now. What do you do?

So I dial most of her number
and then I change my mind
our friends say she’s doing better now
so I let her live her life


Ron Pope—”Lies and Cigarettes”

You start out by looking at responsibility. Yeah, you made that mistake. You have zero obligation to change the past. Couldn’t do it even if you were supposed to. And that sounds simple, but I see so many men who don’t realize that’s what they’re asking for: a time machine. Your responsibility is here and now. Your responsibility is to acknowledge what happened, to name it as a mistake. You didn’t have all the info, or you made a bad choice based on the info you had; but regardless, it happened, and you don’t approve. Good. That’s really good. This part takes a long time to do (see the article on avoidance if you want to read more about why).

Don’t use passive voice in this part. If something was an accident, okay, but let’s look at your role in it. You didn’t mean to hit that other car, and they shouldn’t have been driving in your blind spot, but you were distracted. The affair didn’t “just happen, I don’t know, chemistry can’t be denied.” You made choices. I’m not saying you should call yourself a bad person. That won’t help. That’s actually counter-productive and just makes you feel shitty. Good people make good and bad choices. Your job here is to see your role in the decision that won’t stop chewing at your subconscious.

Next, and this is the most crucial part, you fucking learn from this. You say, “I made this choice, for whatever reason, and it was bad, and I do not want to do it again.” You say, “I wanted to have sex with her, and I had sex with her, and I regret that, and I learned I am capable of cheating, and the next time I want to, I am going to tell my wife about it, even though I am ashamed, and we will talk, and we will figure out what to do together, and I will be proud of my actions because I am a good person and I deserve to feel good about myself, and I deserve to talk about mistakes I might make before I make them so I can get help to not make the mistakes.”

You say, “I shoplifted and I cannot return the merchandise but I feel bad about this and I learned that when I’m stressed, I steal, and I will talk to my therapist about better ways to handle my stress and, if I still feel guilty about what I can’t undo, I will donate a reasonable amount to an appropriate charity, and I will not steal again, and I will treat myself like someone who has served his time rather than someone in jail.”

You say, “I am appalled by the language I used back then. I won’t deny saying it, but I was wrong to say it, and I have since learned that these words can hurt people who are already marginalized by greater society and need my support, not my slurs. I now review my comments before I hit ‘send’ to make sure I’m representing myself like I want to.”

You say, “I ended that relationship badly, and I hurt him, and I can’t take my words back, but I can make one heartfelt apology and then I can stay away from him and let him do what he needs to do to heal on his own, and I won’t hurt the next guy the same way.” Like Ron Pope says, you have to “let her live her life.”

So how does this relate to turning an article in a week late? I can say, “Gosh, Jared, with Thanksgiving and all, time got away from me.” But that’s pathetic. That’s passive voice. That’s taking my responsibility and giving it to the calendar. Instead, I can say, “Jared, I’m sorry. I prioritized other things, and I didn’t get them done in time to work on this article. If you still want it, I can work on it and turn it in; if not, I understand and hope you forgive me.” Am I pulling melodrama out of a late assignment? Yep. But if we don’t practice responsibility in small things, it makes it a lot harder to practice it in big things. So the next time you say you’re sorry, really dig into it. What specifically are you sorry for? What were you responsible for that you didn’t do the way you wish you had? What will you do differently now that you know this and own your present-day actions? Because when we were “young,” it was okay to live “on lies and cigarettes.” But we’ve grown up. And we get to act like it.

Thanks to Jared for this opportunity to talk to you about mental health this month (technically last month, I admit). I hope this has given you something to think about, and I hope you’ll take that to friends, family, and/or a therapist of your own. Because man, I don’t know you, but I know you’re awesome, and I know you deserve the healthiest life you can get.

[FTNB EXCLUSIVE][MOVEMBER]

Happy Thanksgiving from Fighting the Nashville Blues

posted by Jared A. Godar November 22, 2018 0 comments
Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving with wonderful food and the company of those you love, whether that be your biological family or the family you have acquired along life’s journey.

I am fortunate this year to be doing both. Lunch with dear friends then dinner with my folks and nieces. Thanks to all of those who have adopted me in years past.

Last Thanksgiving was my last day in Nashville before heading back to Texas. I had the pleasure of yet another Thanksgiving dinner with the Rees family, who always took me in on holidays I couldn’t travel to wherever my family was.

When things aren’t going the best, the holidays can be especially tough. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t suffer alone. Reach out. Call that friend or family member you have been avoiding because you haven’t felt like talking and now it’s been so long that you don’t want to have to explain your absence. I’ve been there. It’s tough. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, follow the contact links on this site and get in touch with me.

I long to be a happy man
In this life that I am given
In this life that I am given
I long to be a happy man

And when the noise turns to stillness
I see I have the makings
I see I have the makings
To be one happy man

Darrell Scott “A Crooked Road”

Here is one song I would often return to when things were not going the way I thought they should. When you can’t see any path, clear or murky, from your current state to where you want to be or feel like you should be.

Darrell Scott “A Crooked Road”

Darrell Scott reminds us that life takes us down many a crooked road. In time, we look back and learn how the dots get connected. So, just because you don’t see the way, doesn’t mean the path from where you are to where you want to be doesn’t exist. Just get up, face this day then the next and keep moving. Enjoy.

Dr. Matt Conner

Kesha has probably had a worse few years than you. It’s not a competition, but if it wer, her cards to play include a loss in court against her accused rapist, an eating disorder, and a rehab stint. But she came back a healthier artist, dropping the hottest album of 2017. Rainbow is dripping with extremes of up-tempo rock anthems, glitter-snarl attitude, and thoughtful ballads. I didn’t stop dancing or singing along once when her tour hit Raleigh.

But more than great music, her album proves she has learned a lot in her recovery. I could write a post about easily half the tracks on this record. The one I’m picking for Movember, the one I think best applies to us men and is so rarely actually taught to us, is “Let ‘Em Talk.”

That’s right—it’s Boundaries week here on Fighting The Nashville Blues!

Shake that ass
Don’t care if they talk about it
Fuck all that
haters, just forget about them

Kesha, “Let ’em Talk”

“Boundaries” is a word us shrinks use to talk about the essential rules of communicating in relationships. It’s a little tough to define, so I’ll give you some examples instead.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, etc. Some of them, I can choose. I can, like we covered last week, opt to spend my attention on the past or the present. I can recognize that thinking about old mistakes is more likely to get me in a sad mood compared to thoughts of my present-day options. But I’m not ultimately responsible for my feelings. I can’t help it if I feel sad seeing a picture of a refugee camp, or if you remind me of that jerk in middle school, or if a plate of olives makes my stomach twist up and my nose do that scrunchy reflex thing my mom told me was rude and that I had definitely inherited from her mother-in-law.

What I am responsible for is my actions, including what I say and how I say it. “No thanks” is probably going to be better for my relationship to my host than, “Olives are gross. I won’t eat them, and I think less of you for thinking I would.” Even if that’s true. And it is.

Remember, that same rule applies to every other person in your life. People are responsible for their actions, not their thoughts or feelings. If somebody’s putting you down, it’s absolutely okay to point that out to them. But if they’re generally cool to you, you can stop analyzing why. That’s on their side of the boundary.

Here’s where that gets awesome: As long as they keep their comments civil, their opinions don’t actually mean anything. It’s good to know them. Part of an authentic friendship is a curiosity about a person’s inner world. But if they don’t like how you do something, well, “fuck all that.” You want to tell me I stepped on your foot? Please do, I need that feedback. I’ve affected you. You think I need to take a few lessons and lose ten pounds before I share your dance floor? Thanks for letting me know your thoughts, that’s cool, I’m still dancing until I decide not to. Maybe you won’t like me. A risk I’m willing to take.

Do your thing
don’t care if you make ‘em jealous

Kesha,”Let ’em Talk”

So does that mean we get to say whatever we want? Like, if your hurt feelings aren’t under my control, why should I even think about you? No, and here’s why:

We are all people together. We’re existentially alone, it sucks. We’re all going to die and probably not together; and until that day, we’re just walking each other home, my friends. That shared community, however loose or arbitrary, means we have a responsibility to each other. We have to take ownership of our side of the health of our relationships.

If I said something and it pissed you off, you may be overreacting. I don’t know you. Maybe you take everything too personally. But if I want a relationship with you, I owe it to both of us to ask what happened. “I have no idea if this is because of something I did, but you look/sound angry; and since I haven’t tried to piss you off, I’m confused. If you tell me what’s bugging you, I can explain or apologize for my side of it. If you need time, that’s cool, too, but message received, you’re mad, I get it.”

Because I don’t have a responsibility for you. I’m not in charge of reading your mind or predicting your emotional reflexes. But I have a responsibility to you. I factor in what I know about you when I talk to you, and if I step in something, I apologize or ask about it.

Until then, what do I do when I freak out that you’re judging my dancing or hurt by my speaking up for myself when we tried to pick a movie for our next date? I get to remind myself of the boundaries. The freak out is on my side of the boundary and not controllable. What you think about the situation is on yours and is just as far out of my control. What I say to you or where I put my attention, that’s up to me. So I’m going to talk myself down as many times as I need to. And we’re going to be just fine.

It used to hurt me
Used to bring me down
But do your worst
Cuz nothing’s gonna stop me now

Kesha, “Let ’em Talk”

Special case: People in relationships with people using drugs or alcohol to avoid emotional pain may have an extra-tough time with this “responsibility to versus responsibility for” thing. It can be hard to trust a person to take care of himself when his substance abuse keeps him from really doing that well. So people can end up thinking it’s on them to keep the family going, to keep the neighbors from asking questions, to make sure she doesn’t have a bottle hidden in the bathroom. If this sounds familiar, please check out Al-Anon, a free group that meets all over the world and even on Skype. There’s no better way to learn boundaries.

Let’s all take a lesson from Kesha this Movember. Let’s dance, not like nobody’s watching, but like we don’t have to take responsibility to keep them entertained. Let’s use our boundaries to give ourselves a break for the natural moods we feel and to get closer to the people we love. And let’s let ‘em talk.

I was fortunate enough to capture the first acoustic performance of this new tune. One of two potential title tracks for the upcoming album due next year.

Drivin’ N Cryin’ – Lift the Love Beautiful

The guys performed this at Cactus Records this afternoon in Houston in anticipation of their show at Under the Volcano tonight. Come on down.

Some great other shows in the coming days as well.

[FTNB EXCLUSIVE][MOVEMBER][THE DOCTOR IS IN]

The Doctor is In: Matt Nathanson “Mine”

posted by Matthew Conner, M.D., P.L.L.C. November 12, 2018 0 comments
Dr. Matt Conner

Here’s the second installment of the FTNB “The Doctor is In” guest series by Dr. Matthew Conner. This one really spoke to me. If you missed his first article, read it here.

-Jared Godar

Matt Nathanson has been a favorite of mine since 2003’s amazing, sensitive collection, Under These Fireworks. Lightning usually only strikes once, but last summer’s Sings His Sad Heart is arguably his best one yet. It’s only fitting that the disc is a ten-song collection about a man who can’t let go of the past.

I got a text from your sister

it’s been a while

I see this a lot when men come to therapy. Sometimes, like the song says, you’re on your own and get a sudden reminder of your ex—that song on the radio, you bump into her sister, the reunion invitation that comes in the mail. Occasionally, your current partner does something that gets on your nerves and you just know that never would have happened with the one that got away.

Whatever the cause, the end result is dissatisfaction. How could you have made this choice? Why are you with this person? Maybe you should just text…

NO! Consider this your intervention. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about hanging on to old things, and I’ll teach you how to let it go.

All the ways I try to rewind when you were mine

The fantasy of “the one that got away” comes up all the time, and I think it’s going to lose some of its hold on you once we talk about where it comes from. The usual cause is anxiety: there’s a “right” answer, the one person you’re supposed to be with. If you don’t guess right or keep that person, that’s the reason why anything feels wrong in your life. If you feel bad, or anxious, or unsure, well, that must be proof that you just haven’t found the right person. But what happens when you find the right person and then you feel bad, or anxious, or unsure?

Most of the guys I see take that as a sign that they must have guessed wrong and dig into things like breaking up, affairs, or even trying to blame or change their partners. Gotta find the next right person. But I try to help these men by telling them two secrets: There is no such thing as a right answer here and everyone feels bad once in a while. It’s going to happen with this person, or the next, or alone—it’s not her, it’s you.

I know this isn’t always the case. There may not be right answers, but there are wrong ones. If you’re in a relationship that feels controlling, withholding, or cruel, you need to run that by friends you trust or a good couple’s therapist. Couple’s therapy is not forcing you to stay together, nor is it a sign you’re breaking up. It’s just asking a neutral third party to apply their understanding of relationship patterns to your situation and if there’s something toxic you need to know that.

But the answer isn’t that your high school sweetheart should never have dumped you for that skinny guy with the guitar at the first college party. Let’s work on letting that one go.

First, recognize that it’s completely normal to wonder what might have been. You were with your ex for a good reason, and it’s fine to remember those good times. It’s normal to feel dissatisfied and go back in time for a few minutes.

But then, tell yourself that not every relationship has to last to be successful. We all hit spots in relationships where we aren’t going to learn or grow anymore and most of us have that experience when we’re too immature to deal with it without hurting each other. It sucks, but it happens, and it’s how we learn. No amount of playing that tape over is going to make you feel okay that it’s over. She may be funnier than your wife is, he may load the dishwasher the way your husband just can’t figure out; but remind yourself that even with the good parts, this wasn’t your last relationship, and it ended. You can learn from it and make better choices now, but you can’t undo it and you don’t have to.

In the end I was practice

Yeah, you kissed me like an actress running lines

Here’s the last step: be in the now. You’re here and you’re with your partner. You may feel dissatisfied, but you’re both still in it. If you stay present, you can’t be in the past. Sounds oversimplified, but it’s true. We don’t multitask the way we claim to.

Think about things you like about the person you love and build up to things you love about them. Try to stick to the positive—more “She saves me the corner piece of the lasagna, which sounds lame, but I like that best and she remembers” rather than “Umm, she doesn’t sweat too much, I guess.” If that’s too hard, remember what first attracted you. Make a list. Write it down. Or better yet, write it to her. Say it to her. Make it part of the daily routine until it doesn’t feel awkward anymore. Don’t you want to know what your partner loves about you? Why not make that the last thing you say when you separate in the morning? I have had plenty of arguments with boyfriends, but if I can say, honestly, “I’m mad, but you are usually really considerate, and I want to remember that before I say anything else.” I stop comparing them to the exes.

I’m not saying you can’t think about them. This is your story, you’ve learned from it. But when you’re nodding to Matt Nathanson singing, “All the ways I try to rewind when you were mine” remind yourself that part of the tape is over, and hit “Play” instead.

I am honored and excited to have the first opportunity to share Nina Ricci’s latest single with you. The inspiration for “Southern Goodbyes” comes from a special ritual when she would depart the family homestead in north Georgia for the return to Nashville. Nina’s grandmother remained on the porch waving goodbye until the taillights disappeared around the bend.

The power of that story and this song lies in how relatable it is to so many of us, independent of geography. My southern goodbyes with my Mamaw and Papaw in Mississippi were very similar to the ones described in verse here. When we left my Uncle Chuck’s place outside New Orleans, we had to drive a block in the opposite direction, make a U-turn and drive back on the other side of the neutral ground (that’s the median, for all of y’all who aren’t from New Orleans). For the entire duration of this detour, Chuck and his family remained in the driveway waving until we were on the main road.

Nina had been toying with this song concept for some time. She wrote the song this February, shortly before the March release of her debut album Designs on Me.

With the lyrics basically done and dusted, August rolled around and the composition still remained closer to a poem than a song as it hadn’t been fully set to music or arranged. Two weeks later, it was definitely a song. Nina placed sheet music in front of her band and one sight-reading session and rehearsal later, this ethereal concept that had been floating around in her head was given shape and form and came to life.

The song was recorded on September 6th at the East Nashville studio of fellow Berklee alumnus Marc Lacuesta. Marc actually coached and trained Nina for her Berklee audition, so it came full circle when he engineered this single. (Marc is also a great friend of FTNB and has very comfortable trees.)

Nina’s father was songwriter Robert James “Bob” Ricci and she enjoyed exposure to music ranging from Greenwich Village folksingers to the Beach Boys to the Beatles preceding her earliest memories. This unique musical incubation simmered in the background as Nina grew up. She took a few piano lessons and a bit of music theory here and there, but neither captured her interest. 

This changed when 14-year-old Ricci picked up and fell in musical love with her Dad’s Alvarez guitar. Her aspirations rapidly transitioned from a Brian May-style guitarist, to lead singer, to a songwriter. After formal training in performance, theory, a bit of engineering, and music business at Berklee, she returned to Nashville in 2015 on a mission. Her driven efforts and constant support of mother/manager/partner-in-crime Teresa Ricci are paying off. Through talent, ambition, and sheer force of will she has written and recorded her debut album, performs around Nashville, and now adds this song to her catalog.

Without any further adieu, FTNB humbly presents “Southern Goodbyes” for your enjoyment. Listen here exclusively this week and purchase your own copy when it goes on sale October 5th.


FREE PREVIEW STREAM ENDED. 

Voice: Nina Ricci
Acoustic Guitar: Nina Ricci
Harp: Olivia Fortunato
Violins I and II: Patrick Monnius
Upright Bass: Brandon Cantwell
Drum Set: Stewart Newman
Mixed by Marc Lacuesta
Mastered by Harold LaRue


Nina would like to extend a special thanks to Tony Gillespie and his Facebook group “The Village – Folk Music, History and Memorabilia” for financing the recording of this single.