Trial Balloon

Ask Dr. Heartlander

Posted at 6:00 AM on December 8, 2009 by Dale Connelly (40 Comments)
Filed under: Ask Dr. Heartlander

Radio Heartland has tickets to give away to Neal and Leandra's Christmas concert this Friday, December 11th, at the Cedar Cultural Center. We're also marking Radio Heartland's 1st anniversary at the event. We'll allow entries until 1pm today.

Enter the drawing.
Obey the rules.
Good luck.

Today, we continue what I hope will be an ongoing advice series - "Ask Dr. Heartlander".

Ann_Landers small.jpg

Who is Dr. Heartlander? Look no farther than the tip of your own tongue, for Dr. Heartlander is All Of Us, and as such, Dr. Heartlander gives practical, reckless, helpful and dangerously misguided advice, sometimes all at once.

If you'd like to ask the doctor a question, send it to I'll re-write it to disguise your true identity, and then you may take advantage of the rare privilege of offering yourself advice, online.

Here's the latest question:

Dear Dr. Heartlander,

I feel compelled to contribute to an online discussion almost every day. There are three things I like about it.

1) I don't have to be seen.
2) I can think before I speak, and
3) No one knows if what I say is true.

I can pretend I have a herd of goats or horses or chickens. I can pretend that I have moved to Utah or live in Mankato. I can pretend that I sing in a chorus, build beautiful things, advocate sustainable farming, buy local, ride my bike everywhere, spar in Karate, plant beautiful gardens and can all of my vegetables, have three beautiful cats all rescued from animal shelters, have a clean house, decorate for the holidays, keep up to date on current events and drive a fuel efficient car.

Self improvement is easy when you don't have to back it up. I am starting to avoid contact with the outside world because I prefer the online me to the me I actually am. And what's worse, I'm not sure I know the difference anymore.

How can I correctly identify reality, and stay in touch with it?


Not Myself Lately

Speaking as one portion of Dr. Heartlander's brain, I told "Not Myself Lately" that we all have ideal selves we strive to reach. The "self" that NML projects online is very ambitious, but dishonest, whereas the "self" that has confessed to all this confusion is open, humble and truthful. Thus, the conflicted, confused "real" self is actually more noble than the "ideal" fantasy version, and therefore superior.

The real question is: "Why are you going online to pretend to be something LESS than you really are?"

Answering a question with a question is an underhanded technique, but I hope it will bring some clarity to "NML". Or I could be making a bad situation much, much worse.

What do YOU think, Dr. Heartlander?

Comments (40)

Hmmm...22 minutes in and no bloggers yet. I guess everybody else was waiting, like I was, for someone else to go first. I figured maybe their answers would help me figure out the question! Does that mean my real self isn't too bright this morning!

Posted by sherrilee | December 8, 2009 6:24 AM


Sometimes a very useful tactic when called on to give advice is to sit quietly, take notes, and grunt every now and then in a neutral, but significant way. If you're lucky, your subject will talk his or her way to their own solution.
Could that be happening right now?

Posted by Dale Connelly | December 8, 2009 6:29 AM

It seems to Dr. Heartlander that NML has hit upon the perfect solution to the angst and personality damage wrought by all the issues of the day -- the economy, war, and bickering among congress-critters who wouldn't last a day in World of Warcraft.

What NML has discovered is the ultimate form of cocooning! Not only are you cozily ensconced in your home, with food, a warm bed, and Radio Heartland for entertainment, but you're also wrapping your mind in a comforting blanket of deception. You can become the ultimate architect of your universe, curing the world's ills by fiat -- at least in your own mind.

I would caution NML that transitioning back to the real world for things like work will require careful staging. Start with a few hours per day, claiming a migraine one day and a doctor's appointment the next (to treat the migraines). You might want to hire an alibiologist to help. Gradually work back into a full day.

Or get an online job! Like processing vacation reservations for an offshore resort! Then you can keep your manufactured persona and still buy food.

Isn't the Internet wonderful?

Posted by Pat | December 8, 2009 6:30 AM

Dear NML, i'll start with a self-disclosure: my least favorite quote is: "an unexamined life is not worth living" (Socrates). searching for reality may not be all that it's cracked up to be. if you discover your real self you may not be pleased. at least you are pretending to be someone nice (well, except if you're Donna, then you're pretending to be evil when you really are not).
out to milk my (pretend) goats.
btw - have i told you i am tall and thin and Roy Orbison was my uncle and i'm part Navajo?

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | December 8, 2009 6:30 AM

Dear NML (If that's your real name),

I am shocked that you would not only take on another's identity, but that you would be comfortable bragging about these attributes to the cultured listeners of public radio. The next thing you know you will be claiming to be a pirate, a bear, a
bathtub safety officer, a high school student,a distinguished researcher, or, heaven forbid, a radio disc jockey.

SNAP OUT OF IT before someone gets hurt!

Posted by Beth-Ann | December 8, 2009 6:37 AM

Good Morning Y'all,

I don't know about you, sherilee, but I am a little tired this morning and my real self is not in good shape to deal with advice for Not Myself Lately. I probably am sort another one who is Not Myself Lately, but I am okay about my self as a Radio Heartlander and I think NML shouldn't really worry too much or be too confused regarding participation as a Radio Heartlander. Is any one really ever completely themselves?

Posted by Jim | December 8, 2009 6:40 AM

Dear NML,
You feel vulnerable in an unstable and often disorienting world.
You are merely trying to ground yourself in a safe virtual environment, and trust me NML, if you think you are the only one deluding yourself or the rest of us blog addicts, you really ARE crazy!
My son in law and I address things that we consider 'good', such as Garrison Keillor, Joan Jett, and Guinness, as "things that make this damn world a better place". The same could be said for online deceit. I say reality SHOULD be buffered, so just let it blow. (I have no idea what that means, but I like to think that I am deep and enigmatic and more importantly, I want you to think so.)

Barb - did I ever tell you that Carlos is Roy Orbison's bastard son and one day with any luck, you and I will be cousins?

Posted by Donna | December 8, 2009 7:07 AM

I had to put away my super-person cape before I directed one of my support staff to take this dictation to write a humble answer to your intrigung question, Dale - sorry for the delay.

As a super-person, SP to you, I think it is a necessary part of my persona to keep all the amazing, dare devil escapades I do each day under wraps - no bragging allowed is what I tell the grandchil..., aah, I mean, my adoring public.

Right now I am developing a plan to control and refashion great amounts of white matter that I aniticipate will fall over the entire land very soon. How big this refashioned object will be depends on me alone!! The search is on for the correct protective wear, so necessary as we build the snowm...hmm - I feel I must sign off and concentrate all my efforts in this area of endeavor. So long for now!

Posted by Teri in Zimmerman | December 8, 2009 7:13 AM

I'm confused:
I thought isolation was the point fo all the modern technologies.
I thought all the bloggers on here, including me, were just more characters created in the fecund (or is that fetid?) mind of Dale. Maybe "Carlos" is real.
I thought people on here were speaking before they think; I know I do.
I thought everyone was part Navajo.
I thought the quote was "an unexamined goat is not worth milking."
I thought everyone was not ever themselves.
I thought I WAS in Mankato (although I am not named Clyde. I ask you Dr. Heartlander, would any loving mother really name her son CLYDE?) Did I just answer a question with a question? Was there a question?

Posted by Clyde from Mankato | December 8, 2009 7:15 AM

Good morning, all! It's going to be another day like yesterday where I hardly have time to catch the show. Hope everyone is enjoying his or her online persona. I miss mine. ;-)

Posted by elinor | December 8, 2009 7:32 AM

Everyone on here is so clever…that’s why I lurk in the background; I could never even begin to pretend I’m something I’m not. I wish I could. Maybe if I use a fake name like Clyde does now that’s an idea I never considered….hmmm.

Maybe I AM Clyde from Mankato?

Posted by Kate from Eden Prairie | December 8, 2009 7:34 AM

i'm just pretending to laugh myself silly, SP and "Clyde"
and Donna, i'm pretty sure Carlos helped Roy write "Pretty Woman" with you in mind....
your cuz,

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | December 8, 2009 7:39 AM

Once again, I see Entanglement Physics at work here. Although we all see ourselves as individual identities, the lines are blurring. Who is the `real` Clyde in Mankato? And That Guy in The Hat is a real chameleon. How about that Barb in Blackhoof -- who in their right mind considers themselves retired while milking goats and running a goat farm?

Only Carlos seems to be real.

But that old matron sparring in karate is just too much to believe -- that's just crazy talk. :~)

We're all becoming One, feeling each other's pain, taking on someone else's persona when it suits us. It's all good -- we gain each other's strengths, learn what others already know and become a race of super humans!

And to think it all started here ....

Posted by Supposedly Joanne in Big Lake, MN | December 8, 2009 7:56 AM

My persona is very baggy. I have room for many Clydes in here; all are welcome. I mean if I were named Clyde I would have a sister named Cleo who lives out by donna. But who would believe that?

Posted by Cldes in Mankato | December 8, 2009 7:59 AM

Now that I think about it, I wonder if I am ever out of the "not myself lately" situation. There must have been some time when I was more or less myself, but I am not sure about that. I'm kind of hoping that the world, itself, is not really what it appears to be because what I see most of the time is not what I would like to see.

Posted by Jim | December 8, 2009 7:59 AM

Either that or we've becoming a hive consciousness and turning into the Borg ...

Posted by Borg Collective in Big Lake | December 8, 2009 8:02 AM

Hi Dale,

Wishful thinking CREATES reality :-)


Posted by kathy | December 8, 2009 8:04 AM

very deep, "Joanne" but i can't even pretend to know about entanglement physics. (or am i feigning that lack?)
as one who is driven to know things, i admire my Mom's pat answer to most quandaries: "it can't be explained." period.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | December 8, 2009 8:07 AM

i think being able to celebrate the opportunity to be what you want is what this and many other blogs are about.
we can't do more than throw a line in the water and see if anything bites and the world is such abig place you have to choos where youthrow your line in.

you are not who you are
you are not who other people think you are
you are who you think other people think you are

one of my personal favorites quotes

Posted by tim | December 8, 2009 8:08 AM

Barb -- it's more likely me feigning to actually know what Entanglement Physics means. Basically, I think it means we're all connected at some deep level. But I like your mother's answer better!

Posted by Back to Joanne in Big Lake | December 8, 2009 8:11 AM

gosh... I leave for an hour and we've completely jumped the tracks and headed out to an alternate universe! I don't know any other group who can get humming on meta-physics this early in the morning. It's been a grand year!

Posted by sherrilee | December 8, 2009 8:17 AM


Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | December 8, 2009 8:22 AM

Self Identity, what a deep subject! A poem comes to mind that I learned when I was a child.

As I was going up the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd stay away

Okay, I am off to find myself in my walk with my dogs, in my car, in a parking ramp, in my cubicle...

Posted by Darcy | December 8, 2009 8:24 AM

We will all be assimilated.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | December 8, 2009 8:24 AM

Off topic (who the hell knows at this point what is on or off topic??) addendum to yesterday: Our choir requires no auditions, and there are just 2 requirements beyond a music fee -- love to sing, and show up regurlarly. Just in case anyone out there (near the cities) is ready to take the plunge... We practice in Prospect Park near the U.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | December 8, 2009 8:27 AM

René Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am" (actually he said, "Cogito ergo sum"). Does that mean that you are what you think about? If so, then it would be impossible to have a pretend persona because by thinking it up you would become

Posted by Doug | December 8, 2009 8:36 AM

Well, now Barbara I have to pretend I used to live in Prospect Park.

Posted by Clydes in Mankato | December 8, 2009 8:41 AM

For your (and my own) edification;

"According to the quantum entanglement theory of quantum mechanics, on the other hand, distant events may under some circumstances have instantaneous correlations with local ones."

Also; "Quantum entanglement, also called the quantum non-local connection, is a property of a quantum mechanical state of a system of two or more objects in which the quantum states of the constituting objects are linked together so that one object can no longer be adequately described without full mention of its counterpart—even if the individual objects are spatially separated in a spacelike manner." Wikipedia

Wow. If you totally understood that, take a step to the head of the class. But it describes the RH/TB blog perfectly, yes?

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake, MN | December 8, 2009 8:42 AM

The Bob Dylan Christmas song sounded like a Klezmer tune. Can songs take on different identities? If NML can't figure out his identity, maybe he should follow the axiom "you are what you eat"

Posted by Renee | December 8, 2009 8:43 AM

Wow! How did you come up with that Glen Miller tune about the man that wasn't there, Dale? That was a very interesting selection.

Posted by Jim | December 8, 2009 8:46 AM

Resistance is futile! Have a great day, Heartlanders!

Posted by sherrilee | December 8, 2009 8:50 AM

Barbara in Robbinsdale - i like your comment best:
thanks All for a fun morning - what a great bunch.
and Dale, the music selections this morning were indeed inspired!!
beaming up,

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | December 8, 2009 8:57 AM

Dear NML,
All things in moderation. There's nothing wrong wtih some escapism. To say that you would be wrong in creating and enjoying an online personna would be like telling an actor that they're wrong for submersing themselves into a part...or telling someone at a costume party that they're wrong for acting like the character they're dressed as. Radio, television, movies, books, art, stories...we all need some escapism. And as we find the 'real world' more disturbing, we want to escape more often and more completely.

But you have to accept that reality won't go away. It will continue to wave at you from across the stage calling in a high-pitched, effeminate voice, "Hello, Siegfried," waiting for you to call back, "Hello Roy." And if you ignore it for too long, that's when it turns into a tiger that grabs you by the neck, shakes you like a rag doll, and tries to drag you off stage. So, to avoid that kind of shock and surprise, keep in touch with the real world enough to take care of yourself. Otherwise, enjoy the pseudo-life for what it is but recognize what it is.

Or begin taking steps to turn yourself into that person you pine for. I'm not a big fan of what I do for a living. So, I've started trying to move into those areas that I do enjoy. I've displayed and sold photos at local coffee shops. I've become a pulp fiction writer. I've gotten accepted by a voiceover talent agency. All in the past few years. I'm nowhere near being able to quit my job and support myself on what I enjoy...but I'm working at it. And, let me tell you, if you think making it up is fun (and it is!), living it is WAY better.

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | December 8, 2009 8:59 AM

Clydes (alias Clide, Cldes, etc.) in (or not) in Mankato: How did you ever find your house?! We got lost several times before perfecting our route... it's at that little Methodist Church across from the Witch's Tower.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | December 8, 2009 9:17 AM

I thought of some other identifiers on the way to work- You're the cream in my coffee, You are known by the company you keep, You're the top, Where your treasure lies, there will your your heart also be, You're the bees knees, so, NML take your pick!

Posted by Renee | December 8, 2009 9:47 AM

Guy in the hat is either the hero of the day or the scariest person of the day--he is turning his life into a real alternate reality, or doing the best job of lying to us.
Barbara in Robbinsdale: our apartment in Prospect Park (college days) was easy, on Franklin Ave., the last house before St. Paul. Prospect Park is one of the treasures of Minneapolis. The walk to the “U” was always interesting, every one of the 20 or so routes I had figured out.
Regarding Clydes, Clds, Clides: sorry about that, all, and for my frequent typing errors. One thing I guess I cannot hide is bad typing, from a syndrome I have which gives me ataxia, lack of muscle control, and vision problems and mental focus problems. The three combine to make me a bad blogger. I was at my doctor for the last hour or so for it. I do a lot of “alternative medicine” for it, pun ntended.

Posted by Clydes in Mankato | December 8, 2009 10:41 AM

Clydes, your suspicions are certainly well-founded. But, in this particular instance, I am actually working toward doing fun things for a living. Ain't there yet...but gotta start somewhere. They say it isn't about the goal but the journey. Well, I'd say it's about both.

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | December 8, 2009 11:06 AM

Barb...some days I wish I were you, that is if you are who you say you are:) are my hero!

Donna, you always make me laugh.

Posted by Kate from Eden Prairie | December 8, 2009 11:14 AM

back from a dose of unreality with my Mom, writing Christmas cards. (Mom: what is Lloyd's address? me: he died Mom - two years ago Mom: HE DID?
me: what do you want to write to aunt Sadie? Mom: don't forget uncle Waldo! me: he died Mom, last year. Mom: HE DID???) but since i don't know everyone on her list, i am certain we sent cards to people who are not on this earth anymore....
Kate in Eden Prairie - nice to see you posting more today! if you want to be me (ya know - tall, thin, uncle Roy Orbison, part Navajo) would you please do it tomorrow morning for milking - say about 6:30a.m.??? :-) i'd like to stay in and watch it snow.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | December 8, 2009 1:49 PM

Clyde - and here I thought you were just spelling it different ways to keep that incognito thing going. :)

Barb in Blackhoof - I'm with you there, get to do my mom's cards with her when we go down for Christmas. Pretty trippy. (They'll get mailed eventually.)

Sherilee - ditto: it IS an alternative universe we head out to, every time we open up morning's new blog and read the question. Who knew alternative universes could be so addicting?

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | December 8, 2009 3:21 PM

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