Everybody who tells you how to act has whiskey on their breath



“Everybody who tells you how to act has whiskey on their breath.” ― John Updike

Some interactions which I have had with people stick with me like memorable clips from a film. A scene and dialogue which keeps playing in my mind on a loop, the rest of the story lost in time and memory because it didn’t stand out, didn’t hit a chord or a discord like this like bit did.

It’s all there I suppose, the mind does tend to record everything… but where is there? And do I need to retrieve the bits that I don’t recall or are the relevant bits the ones which are recalled?

Sometimes I forget the scene for a while, then it pops up again like a song once listened to many times over, which meant something once, and which returns seemingly out of the blue, part of a soundtrack of a moment in life.

Why did that song or that scene pop up when it did? Is it nostalgia? Is it random? Or does it have a purpose, a message or something along those lines for me? Is it saying that something which is happening now is reminiscent of a past experience, and I need to know this as history is repeating itself and maybe giving me an opportunity to make a few changes to how it plays out this time? Something new is also something old, yet new too?

“Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?” ― John Updike

Whenever a scene gets stuck in my head, I know my mind is probably using it as a symbolic representation of something I have yet to figure out. The scene is a picture holding a thousand words, concepts, theories, information and stories within it. It is a problem and a solution.

Perhaps it ties in with a repetitive pattern in my life…

“A yawning repetitiveness as of a man who knows few words but will not stop talking.” ― John Updike

…a theme which I know about, of which it is hard not to be aware as it keeps happening and making itself felt, thought about, seen – NOTICE ME – it screams.

One which I occasionally try to understand, sometimes obsessively, sometimes lackadaisically. A file on my to do pile on my desk which may be partly done but has not been completed due to insufficient data or I simply ran out of steam, early enthusiasm giving way to something or other.


obsession vs disinterest

There’s this one scene which popped up recently from a several years old incident in my life. It was one of those moments when you realise that your version of a relationship and reality is completely different from the other person’s and their version of the relationship and reality is in another universe entirely.

“It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.” ― John Updike

It is one of those scenes where someone turns up in your life, doesn’t bother to get to know you but decides they know you better than you know yourself, then proceeds to tell you who you have to be to suit them and if you don’t accept the role then they tell you what is wrong with you because they’re offering you a great chance to have a supporting role in the film of their life, starring them of course. Why would you not want that!?!

“Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face.” ― John Updike

Well, of course, you don’t want a supporting role in their film when you have a starring role in the film of your own life. But they don’t understand that, so they kill your character off, often dramatically, making sure you feel your character’s pain (which is really their pain at your refusal to play along with them and uphold their version of reality over yours) and move on to find someone better to replace you.

Life does not tolerate empty spaces, and thus the space which they leave in your life is soon filled by someone else intent on a similar scenario.

“The world keeps ending but new people too dumb to know it keep showing up as if the fun’s just started.” ― John Updike

And so the whole rigmarole starts again…

…and you search for where you left the remote control, in the hopes that you can use it to pause the scene, maybe change the channel because you’ve seen this scene one time too many and would like to watch something new, different, or if you have to watch the same story play out again then perhaps it will have a surprise or a twist at the end which is worth sitting through the entire film with its predictable plot and formulaic formula of entertainment.

Maybe that surprise or twist will inspire a new approach to something old, making it new and fresh instead of tired and cliched.


I’ve lost the plot of this post, so…

Here’s one of my favourite trailers, a trailer with a twist, for one of my favourite films:

The Minus Man (1999 Trailer) 34th Best Trailer Of All Time


  1. Hi there ursula,
    your analysis is always poignant, interesting and well crafted, you are so talented..and it hits home. It’s very nice of you to ask how I am doing as when I am not well i tend to disappear as i feel a burden for everybody. What you have just said reminds me of my family as I had been given a role but I have been unable to meet their expectations and now my father spends his time trying to find a way out to rubber me off once he won’t be on earth anymore by disinheriting me; whether this plan is accomplished or not, it makes me cringe with terror the fact that he’s acting like this, that he has such a thought for me(and not for my sister). My parents were the perfect parents you described in Girls tv show. He has no empathy, I tried to give voice (maybe too loud) to my disappointment, anxiety and despair and my family is using it against me as I am nuts, a poor unhappy woman, that was my bday present. It’s a weird for of parental love when your child is living a very black patch, it really means he wants me dead;I had the courage to tell him this, of course he denied.So after all expressing myself is against myself, but my long silence of a longing daughter for the love of her parents has been proved useless as well.N denial and gaslighting are very very hurting techniques, unluckily they work as war machines as the enemy is poisoned to death.
    The funny inner mechanism leads me to loathe myself. I feel abused, exploited and unlovable and i have only my friends but nothing else.Somebody today wrote a very moving comment saying she didn’t feel grateful for having a N in her life. I do understand what it is meant there. I haven’t been able to get that there was no love to pursue in my family and I have welcomed this horrible image of myself becoming the failure they have always told me I was. I feel worn out and as thouh my lymph had been taken away. When I woke up on Wednesday, I wrote a letter to my shrink as I wanted to quit, maybe unconsciously I’d like to get to the very bottom so there is nothing left. But although there are no results and my life hasn’t moved on an inch and now I know this idea of familial love will never be in my life, I have to cling to it otherwise I will end up in a bleaker place, I feel like dying every minute, it seems the only rational solution as having such a sick family has led me to be sick too, but i would never be able to hurt like they do, the only person I can hurt is myself.
    i had to react to somebody who hurt me and i thought of him as a friend: it’s the first time I say I am hurt and express my point of view;i had to react to a stranger who aggressed and insulted me in the street.. I am knackered, i mean what for other people is natural for me is such a gigantic effort.
    As a result, I can’t concentrate nor write nor do anything creative, it’s like there was a huge, high stone wall which kept me in prison:my mind trapped in my parents’ image of myself. my shrink said i am going through a molt, but I can’t see clearly, as i am blind by my own grief.
    But when I don’t think of my poor life and I am with my friends I can enjoy their and even my own company and I spent a lovely evening for my birthday, I felt loved, joyful and grateful to them,we could share plenty, conversation and feelings, most of the times I feel guilty towards them as hey are lovely and I don’t feel I deserve them; it has been hard to accept presents and kindness, but I managed to lose my memory for a while to embrace their love and friendship. You are included in the group and I have to thank you for your friendship and also for what you are doing for people, it’s very meaningful and precious. s xxx


    • Thank you 🙂

      From what you have said about your new shrink, he seems to be good at what he does, caring and insightful. It is often when we get closest to making a significant shift within ourselves, to change our perception of ourselves and reality, that we get the most afraid and react in a way which sabotages the healing process.

      We sometimes prefer our misery because we know it well, it is comfortable, we have lived with it for a long time and it is a big part of us and our life, and when something tries to take it away from us, when we are on the verge of taking a leap into the unknown experience of life, when we may see the possibility of happiness ahead, or freedom from our past, or anything which is new and therefore terrifying… we react defensively and may decide not to leap because we feel safer where we are than where we have never been. We are not sure if the risk is worth taking, even though we want to take it because staying where we are is killing us from the inside out.

      When we are caught between the old ways and possible new ways –

      “There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” ― Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World

      – sometimes it is necessary to pause and enjoy the simplicity that life has to offer and appreciate the moment. Such as a lovely evening with friends. What you said about your birthday party reminded me of the story of the tigers and the woman. The party was a delicious strawberry, and your friends are a treasure in many guises, they show you the relationships you have the ability to attract and create for yourself in your life. Don’t judge yourself, your ability to love and be loved, solely on your relationship with your family.

      You’re a strong and resilient soul with a fierce warrior nature who fights relentlessly, this is partly why you’re exhausted – and you have been working on learning how to pick your battles instead of fighting everyone, everything, especially yourself. The molt includes shedding some of the old battles which you no longer need to fight, once you do that you’ll have more energy to focus on other things.

      Don’t give up before you reach the finish line, the last push is the hardest one and the place we are most likely to collapse inches away from crossing the line.

      Take care of yourself, trust what is happening, trust the process, and that it will lead to something new. 🙂


      • Thank you so much Ursula, the story of the woman and the tigers is crystal clear and says a lot about life (and I take it personally too, as tigers are my totem feline and I love strawberries, although I prefer raspberries).Yes, we are in between birth and death and it means I have to appreciate what is available for me, which is just …raspberries, but, true, i am inclined to neglect all the rest as the main ingredients of life are missing for me.
        I don’t feel as a warrior but I always try my best before giving in; I think the hardest bit is the psychological truth of our family. You are right that ouside it, I have been able to create deep and healthy relationships, although they have ended at times, but I can be in contact with the same friends of 25 years ago, and sometimes a friendship ends as we are crossing different seas or we don’t share the similar experiences.
        i will try to get to the bottom line, today things seem easier as it is sunny and bright- another strawberry, isn’t it?
        What scares me is an empty life without a project, I seem not to go anywhere, that’s why i feel like punishing myself, for instance when you invited me to make a post of my lines on your blog..i am scared to death, all my writing is piled up and tucked away, nobody reads it, i have never conceived to be read and i am utterly convinced we write or paint for ourselves as an outburst from within, then it might be of interest to someone else.
        the molt is essentially a feature concerning snakes,(I am terrified by them!) but it pictures well someone who is changing skin and mind set. If this is the case, I am curious to see where I will land.


        • You’ll figure it all out bit by bit, these things take time, no need to rush even if there is a sense of urgency, it’s just a sense of urgency designed to push you onwards.

          You’ll find your project, your passion, your creative outlet when the time is right… the pieces will fall into place. Perhaps once the molt is over. Cats shed fur, so maybe so do tigers 🙂


    • Dear Seashell.. just to have lived through this and seen the truth is the very, very hardest thing. I feel your pain from the bottom of my heart. You would not even have had the energy to write all this if somewhere deep down you didn’t know how untrue your father’s version of you is. You are a beautiful soul and the fact of your friends love comes because they love YOU who you really are. I’m sorry for intruding like this on Ursulas blog and your comments, but when I hear the pain in you something in me just has to reach out give you a huge hug across cyberspace (((__))))…..Happy Birthday, too sweet PIscean


      • Dear deborah,
        thank you so much for your words, i do appreciate your writing to me.It’s weird, I do understand what you say, but deep inside i feel so sad and lost. The feeling left by all these experiences is that I see myself as deeply unlovable and I have to give up about love, i can have my friends, true but all the rest is beyond and out of reach. What i miss is an internal source of validation, which is not there, do you know what I mean?
        Someone yesterday on the blog wrote a long comment which was the perfect portrait of how deprived and hurt we feel. You have the stamina to react, I have part of myself which is numb. You know i always wanted to grasp truth and reality in front of my eyes, but i am not so sure it was a good idea..yes, pain is there and i wonder everyday why i am on earth, there is not much meaning to my life, my parents were sick and here i am, i haven’t got NPD but still everything is topsy turvy.
        It’s fascinating how you and Ursula can discuss astrology in such a deep way, mysterious indeed!! and thank you for your wishes, very much appreciated, it was a particularly hard moment and being pisces doesn’t help, I always seem to be swimming in troubled waters and i can’t see the end of it. Thank you for being in touch!


        • I do understand. I think the Piscean/Neptunian experience is so deeply like you describe at times. Its like you are totally subsumed by the ocean of pain and cant see anything else and the true, beautiful self is buried so deep or numbed to extreme and yet, part of this beauty even lies in being the one who has to carry this kind of experience and bear this kind of bleak vision of a harsh world when others just seem to be able to gloss over it.. I have been there and am really watching my PIscean sister go throught this profoundly difficult experience at the moment. I also know what you mean as Neptune can take away all the assertive rebellion and keep it prisoner or captor deep inside, its like you have had to reach so far to open yourself to the entirety of it that you see no value any more in struggling. This is something I must be truely honest and say I dont have any kind of solution for, feelings are feelings and not accessible to reason. My only feeling is that the numbness might be a profound stage of healing. I dont have any thing to back this up just a feeling. Sometimes it takes time for that missing thing to grow.. in my experience it grows out of (in alchemical terms) the nigredo (the deep and profound depression and world weariness which at times is so hard to bear) and the solutio.. out of that some kind of substance begins to form, if we have the courage, patience and tenacity to stay with it.. and within it in time is formed a little piece of self or inner validation. But that is just my experience. All I can say is I see you, hear you and feel you.

          I remember the astrologer Liz Greene said that for Neptunians it is so important to find some kind of medium with which to express these deep things in order to give them a form. Is that possible for you? I dont know if it would help but maybe you dont even need solutions, just to be heard and felt. There is something too, so deep about Neptune that it is at times on the other side of words and meaning.


          • You are right, Deborah, i am making a huge effort to get out of that place and thanks to Ursula I plucked up courage to make visible one of my poems;i have a heap of that and other things but i hide everything- and this a step further than destroying it. i really hope to develop that core, but to tell you the truth i am resistant, there is something inside myself building up a fortress against it. Your sister s lucky to have you! My dream is to start painting again as I read fine arts before philosophy and i have always privileged my rational side to the creative one, i am trying to reach out for the light, i am coming too from a dark night. And again, too funny to get lost in your astrological debates, I don’t understand anything!!You both are real pandits.


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