Giving In To Grace & Giving Freud a Rest

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

So . . . am I a good giver, or a bad giver? Do I give in hope of return (whatever the form), or do I give as a tiny manifestation of Grace, learned from those more Grace-ful than I? Do I give out of guilt? Or do I give out of love? Do I give due to feelings of inadequacy? Or do I just . . . give (like a hemophiliac bleeds)? Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Ruminant With A View

by Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Bye-bye, Sigmund! Bye-bye!
Bye-bye, Sigmund! Bye-bye!

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

TEANECK, New Jersey—(Weekly Hubris)—6/11/2012—A few weeks ago, I fired my psychoanalyst.

A Freudian. Not a neo-Freudian, mind you. A Freudian. I should have known better. I gave it (the whole schtick; him; us) about six months, and then I wrote the man a “Dear John” letter and did not go back. He was angry. He said cruel things on the phone the last time we spoke, just before I hung up on him.

More than a bit cowardly of me, you might say, but Freudians have way, way more firepower at their disposal than I, and this fellow had already called me, on several occasions, a “quitter” (for dropping out of multiple Ph.D. programs in my salad days), and I knew further (and darker) epithets awaited if I’d just sit still for them.

We weren’t a good match, Sigmund and I.

In my experience, though, most Ph.D. programs were designed for one thing, and one thing only: quitting. (I’ve also “quit” two gay husbands and one paranoid schizophrenic one, so I’m a multi-purpose quitter, in Sigmund’s book.)

But I am not, I submit, a quitter for quitting those programs; those men. When I know, for certain, that an institution (The University of Georgia, for example; or my gay, gay husband on Mykonos), is going, without a shadow of a doubt, to suck the marrow from my bones, make my life a desert, remove the light from my eyes, I write a polite letter, and I walk. Out. Without a dime or a diploma, I walk.

Enough said on this little matter, perhaps. But, some other things the Gentleman of Vienna said to me got me thinking hard, and not in ways I believe he intended.

He said that, along with “quitting,” I have a problem with “boundaries.” Specifically, I “give” too much. In every possible way.

Evidently, as well as a “quitter,” I’m a “giver,” and Sigmund questioned my motives.

I took this intelligence on board and, then, I subjected it to much mulling. I mull, therefore I am.

So . . . am I a good giver, or a bad giver? Do I give in hope of return (whatever the form), or do I give as a tiny manifestation of Grace, learned from those more Grace-ful than I? Do I give out of guilt? Or do I give out of love? Do I give due to feelings of inadequacy? Or do I just . . . give (like a hemophiliac bleeds)?

I do give. I admit it. I remember birthdays, and send cards. I drop off a gently used Sunday New York Times at the home of a fellow Times reader (a fellow Times reader who’s been kind enough to fix our kitchen faucet, twice, for free, by the way). I give away copies of my two children’s books to anyone I know and care about who has young readers of the appropriate ages at home. I lend books. I give away clothing no longer age-appropriate to the oh-so-lovely young offspring of friends. I clip articles about subjects dear to their hearts and send them off to distant correspondents. I send Reiki, free of charge, to the ill. If I’m offered a paying gig, and cannot do it, I pass it along to a qualified friend in need. I put out a progressive newspaper, and don’t charge for it. I publish a travel site on Greece, and don’t charge for that. I let fellow drivers merge; I let people cross the street in front of me (even outside a crosswalk); I over-tip tired waiters.

Guilty, Sigmund! Guilty, guilty, guilty as charged!

As my parents taught me to, I give away my heart . . .

. . . and I open my heart to those who also give away their hearts (Jerry, Helen, Jocelyn, Tim, Cusper, Goober, Walter, Marian, Susan, Sanford, F. Theresa, etc., etc., etc., etc.) so that my own will refill, renew—ready to be given away, part by part, again and again, and over and over.

Here’s a little story.

Not so long ago, I worked as an Editor for A Very Bad Man. How and why I came to work for him, unpaid, is a long, involved story for another time. I had hopes he would experience a change of heart due to our friendship (hubris, I know!). I was mistaken. But I was, also, on my guard to a certain extent, over the course of my two-year stint as his Editor-in-Chief, and so I suffered no lasting injuries as a result of our work together.

However . . . when I faced this man—let’s call him Mephistopheles, though that’s not his name—with his sociopathic behaviors towards most and sundry, he turned on me and fired me and all those working under/for me in one fell swoop.

Also, unbeknownst to me, he alerted the NJ authorities that I was “working in the great state of New Jersey [earning money!] without the proper legal documentation.” In due time, an irate representative of the State appeared at my door, demanding information. I wasn’t home at the time, so I called her office to fill her in.

She went over each of my “public” endeavors, one by one. My editorial work for my former employer, Meph: unpaid, no NJ taxes due. My work as the Publishing-Editor of done, these three decades, as an act of love for my adopted country, Greece—unpaid, no NJ taxes due. My two children’s books, published in the US by my own tiny press (which is incorporated in South Carolina, my home state, where I duly pay c. $15. in taxes per annum)—also not-for-profit, till now, so no NJ taxes due.

“Amy” and I had a lovely, hour-long phone conversation which ended with her telling me she didn’t often run into impecunious distributors of free “gifts” (of self, books, editorial services), and she found me difficult to accept at face value. I told her I was sorry to be such a disappointment to the State of New Jersey, and that my husband concurred with her that I should be making some money for all my efforts. I also added that, if she scratched the surface, I was certain she’d find many, many, many people out there . . . giving a lot away for free. Really, I said.

I asked if she had children. One each. Correct ages. I asked for her address. She said that wouldn’t be “appropriate.” I said I wasn’t really that interested in “appropriate,” but that I’d be sending her two copies of my children’s books. To her office address. Autographed. Free. Not a bribe. She had the great good grace to laugh merrily.

I’m certainly no saint. One of the husbands I left was neither gay nor a paranoid schizophrenic, my odds notwithstanding. Reader, I simply did not love him. And one of the Ph.D. programs I quit, I quit because I knew I’d never get through Journalism Law: my brain was too old and creaky by age 42 to put in the hours laying down all those precedents, and the prof was a jerk having an extramarital affair with one of my fellow grad students: I knew I’d never get through two quarters with him without blowing a gasket in class.

But I do have blurred boundaries when it comes to my fellow human beings, and I will be found giving, and giving, and giving . . . for I have been blessed to have been given, and given, and given to.

And, Sigmund, what goes around should, must, come around.

In the meantime, when it comes to Freudian psychoanalysis, I quit. (But Sigmund still might receive a Hanukkah card next winter. Hey, it’s how I roll.)

Note: This column originally ran on March 29, 2010. In the interim, I’ve fired yet another Freudian psychoanalyst: I think I’m now prepared to give them all a rest for this particular incarnation.

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, Publishing-Editor of “Weekly Hubris,” considers herself an Outsider Artist (of Ink). The most recent of her 15-odd books is The Visitors’ Book (or Silva Rerum): An Erotic Fable, now available in a third edition on Kindle. Thirty years an academic, she has also worked steadily as a founding-editor of journals, magazines, and newspapers in her two homelands, Greece, and America. Three other hats Boleman-Herring has at times worn are those of a Traditional Usui Reiki Master, an Iyengar-Style Yoga teacher, a HuffPost columnist and, as “Bebe Herring,” a jazz lyricist for the likes of Thelonious Monk, Kenny Dorham, and Bill Evans. (Her online Greek travel guide is still accessible at, and her memoir, Greek Unorthodox: Bande a Part & A Farewell To Ikaros, is available through Boleman-Herring makes her home with the Rev. Robin White; jazz trumpeter Dean Pratt (leader of the eponymous Dean Pratt Big Band); Calliope; and Scout . . . in her beloved Up-Country South Carolina, the state James Louis Petigru opined was “too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” (Author Photos by Robin White. Author Head Shot Augment: René Laanen.)


  • Jean Nolan

    Of course, you also give away, in no particular order: entire collections of books; linens; frou-frou frillies; original art – (magnificent!); prints; encouragement and love. To this I can attest, and do. Thank you, gifting one. I recommend that at the earliest opportunity, you do a little research on St. Bridget, the nice Irish lass who waited ’til her Da was gone, and then opened the castle and gave everything to the poor. Send the results to your analysts, Past, Present and Future!

  • eboleman-herring

    I give thanks for you both, Jean, Laura, two who are given to, but give so much more back in return. May we all three never . . . give out. :-)

  • eboleman-herring

    Thanks for writing in, Alan. I left out a great deal of pungent detail no one would believe I had not made up out of whole cloth (incl. the fact that this analyst conducted sessions in a home office adjacent a room where he kept two poodle puppies caged, yelping and creating noxious offal during all client-appointments). Freud himself would have much to say about that mixed message. :-)