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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

AUG 2005, Sec. II

Main Essay:

In Part I the Stress Doc traces both a geographical and creative path that connects the Deep South, the old west and the heart of the District.  Will Kensington, MD become the next transitional space on the evolutionary journey?

Leaving the Circle Behind:  Part I
Why Kensington Is My Geographical-Existential Future

After sixteen mostly outrageous years in New Orleans there were no more mountains to climb in the bayou.  After fifteen years in DC, the Dupont/CBD area, there were no more Starbucks to hit in the "Circle."  And in between, off and on for a year there was an escape to Livingston, Montana (25 miles east of Bozeman).  Livingston, a western town of 6,000, has a "nouveau '50s" feel with its two-square, gumbo like mix of small shop-lined streets – from art galleries and surprisingly chic restaurants to local coffeehouses, old-time, dark smoky saloons and a sportsmen's equipment and hardware heaven.  (Alas, marriages have been known to go to hell and a handgun when both parties are not religiously devoted to trout fishing.)  Not surprisingly, this quirky Southwest Montana enclave was starting to nurture a community of artists and writers.

To complete the geographic history, for the first seventeen years I lived in Brooklyn and Queens and attended high school in Manhattan; then college and grad school on Long Island.  And before heading south, there was a two-year stay in Brooklyn Heights, an historic, mostly "brownstone suburb" of lower Manhattan that attracted a diverse crowd – from renowned writers and Wall Street brokers to Jehovah's Witnesses and welfare hotel residents.  (And in the early '70s you could get a studio with a partial view of the Twin Towers for $175/month.)  So with this moderately nomadic yet geographically and culturally kaleidoscopic picture in mind, why has this psychotherapist, writer and motivational speaker recently moved to Kensington, MD?

An answer requires filling in more of the life journey's physical and psychic spaces.  In the mid-'70s I moved to New Orleans to work on a doctorate in Social Work at Tulane University.  Alas, being a practical student wasn't in my blood or my biochemistry, certainly not when you attempt to transform a mystical-like experience in psychoanalysis into a doctoral dissertation.  Talk about being off the academic wall.  And despite being hardheaded, I knocked myself out of the program.  My descriptor for those days/that daze:  "When academic flashdancing whirled to a burnout tango!"

However, there was a silver lining:  I eventually became an expert on stress and burnout.  Even broke into radio and TV and garnered the title "Stress Doc" ™.  Believe me, I didn't feel like a natural.  In the studio, more often than not I was the “Stressed Doc."   As I once penned:  The only thing more dangerous than taking a big risk or not taking any risk is taking a risk while minimizing the precarious reality of the situation.  But hanging in had its rewards:  the most important and lasting effect of writing and delivering two to five minute "Stress Brake" features was discovering and developing my own expressive voice – a blend of thoughtful psychology and irreverent humor and wit.  (I am now a self-proclaimed "psychohumorist" ™ and I'll let you decide where the emphasis on that word should go.) 

Psycho-Geography Rules

Despite my various trials or, perhaps, because of them, I still "know what it means to miss New Orleans!"   And I suspect this longing has to do with the nexus of physical and psychic space.  I believe the place where a person discovers and begins to express his or her imaginative nature and soulful essence (that is, comes out of the creative closet) is forever etched in one's heart.  There's a reason why the time "way down yonder" has become my "American in Cajun Paris" years.  Compared to the usual affairs of the heart, my love affair with the "Big Easy" was definitely long-term.  But eventually I had "been there" and "done that" one too many times.  My head can still hurt recalling fifteen consecutive Mardi Gras bacchanalia and sweltering, sensory overload Jazz Fests.  It was time to move on.  To cultivate and project further this newfound and evolving artistic voice a bigger and more cosmopolitan stage was needed (or at least a world populated with more obviously stressed out people and organizations).

And suddenly I had this urge to move to DC.  I didn't understand it till I got up here, though considering my birthplace and soul place it made sense:  I'm convinced if New York City and New Orleans had a baby it would look like Washington, DC.  Now whether or not it's a "love child"…

A one-year Visiting Professorship at Catholic University School of Social Services became the transition position.  And the decade-and-a-half has produced many singular experiences - from being a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant with the US Postal Service to pioneering the field of psychologically humorous rap music, and calling it, of course, "Shrink Rap" ™ Productions. 

In addition, in the mid-'90s with the help of a colleague and friend I finally overcame, albeit kicking and screaming, my techno-phobia and "computer virginity."  (Alas, I had been in a codependent relationship with a sixteen-year old – my Smith Corona electric.)  We created an award-winning website - stressdoc.com – that has been cited by USA Today and National Public Radio (for a feature on "Bad Bosses").  And more recently, I came out with my books, Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout and Depression and The Four Faces of Anger:  Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior.

Breaking Up the Puzzle Time, Again

Surely the D.C.s – Dupont Circle and the District of Columbia – have encouraged my cutting edge work as a speaker, organizational consultant, author, chat group leader and motivational humorist and, thereby, have given definition to that once seemingly amorphous goal of designing Stress Doc Enterprises.  Nonetheless, I sensed a statute of psychological and geographical limitations was nearing.  The migratory urge was starting to gnaw within.  And in Cicada-like fashion, that is, approximately every fifteen years or so, I hear that instinctual call of survival.  (Perhaps there must be some upheaval, a mind, if not body, impulsion to uproot to be reborn so as to procreate anew.)

More prosaically, there had been one too many rent hikes.  Also, maybe the descriptor of my Dupont neighborhood ambiance with its handful of trees lining the streets as "urban pastoral" was wearing thin.  Eventually I realized my restlessness was due to another factor:  the search for a home base that might enable me to integrate pieces of Brooklyn Heights, NY, New Orleans, LA, Livingston, MN and Washington, DC essential for my evolving existence and essence.  While still connected professionally and emotionally to the DC area, a life stage question loomed large:  Was there a place for a single, middle-aged Stress Doc that could be a studio or stage for helping incubate and express a life of character (developed in dynamic and intimate interaction) and a life of integrity (forged in idiosyncratic and soulful introspection)?  And could such a space – both part of and apart from the District – allow me to gradually lay down personal roots while also supporting professional mobility?  (My career motto:  "Have Stress?  Will Travel:  A Smart Mouth for Hire!")

Seems like a fitting place to close.  My evolutionary tale is almost complete, except for one missing component:  what about Kensington, specifically, has me feeling compelled to make it the next life station on my journey.  (Hmm, Dupont Circle to Kensington.  I'm hoping the reason is not some symbiotic attachment to Connecticut Avenue.)  Part II will examine the social, cultural, architectural and environmental attributes that make this uncommon, geographically diverse "urban-suburban-small town-forested oasis" seem a natural resting place to quench an existential-creative thirst.  As I like to say, until then…Practice Safe Stress!

Heads Up:  Successful and Upcoming Programs [References on Request]

1.  SI International;
successful audition to become a Training Contractor for a massive SI Intl. contract with civilian employees of the Dept of Defense around new perfeormance review/"pay for performance" system
2.  Classic Hyatt/Senior Residence; book reading; upcoming in Aug
3.  Dewey Ballantine; Stress and Team Building program for legal support staff; upcoming in Aug
4.  Housing & Urban Development (HUD); Stress and Team Building; upcoming in early Sep

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™,
is a psychotherapist and "Motivational Humorist" whose Interactive Keynotes and Kickoffs draw wide and "amazing" acclaim - from Fortune 100s and Federal Agencies to around the world with Celebrity Cruise Lines.   An OD/Team Building Consultant, Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and of The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior.  Also, the Doc is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat."  See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com (cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR).  Finally, Mark is an advisor to The Bright Side ™ -- www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award winning mental health resource.  Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com.  For more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs and products, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-946-0865.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2005
Shrink Rap Productions