Sunday, March 22, 2009
There's never nothing, part 2
So, okay, more about my stoner therapist. He was cool.
After three years or so with Brian it was getting ridiculous. Looking back, I think I knew I had to find a way to break free and that I couldn't do it without some help and some major shaking up of things. So first--though I never articulated this at the time, it was more there's this great job etc etc-- I moved away to another state. That didn't do much for the whole breaking free thing. Meanwhile I was having such anxiety and misery that I figured maybe I would get some therapy. I figured it was a nice way to do some self-care. So I called around.
And who knows how to interview a therapist? I sure don't. I just tried to get them talking to see if I, you know, liked them. And this guy, he was all, I'm sort of a hippie. I'm from the sixties. And then he was all, and none of this fifty minutes crap. My sessions are a full hour. And it seemed like I might sort of like him, so that was pretty much that.
His office was in his house, an old Victorian with a leather couch, fireplace, and African masks on the wall from all his life's adventures. It was like stepping into my mind's eye of the perfect therapy office. For some of the darkest times that winter, that full hour was the highlight of my week.
We mostly just had conversations. There was no talking to chairs, talking about my mother, etc. Eventually we got around to Brian, and I started to see how my thinking in that relationship had gotten so distorted. He set me straight on a few things (like there is never nothing). One time he told me my thinking was just wrong, bless him. He suggested I smoke pot to relax one time. He told me some tidbits from his own shady past, his years traveling the world before settling in to graduate school. Not inappropriately like therapists I hear about who talk about themselves all the time (I had a piano teacher who did that), but enough so I came to trust his experience.
Once he was worried I wasn't taking good care of myself--he was right--so he told me to eat steel-cut oatmeal and fresh squeezed orange juice and called me on the weekend to make sure I was alright. He said he would. He put it in his calendar. He did. I think he was modeling appropriate behavior since my ideas of that were so off.
We talked about looking homeless people in the eye, how a conversation with the person who bags your groceries can make a day acceptable, how everyone has worth. I had been trying for so long to be perfect in my relationship that his words I could never love a woman without a good chunk of depression in her seemed revolutionary, a peek into a whole nother world that I vaguely knew existed (and suspected I could manage in) but had completely forgotten about.
The thing with Brian got crazier and crazier. We would split, come back together like magnets VOOM, split again. The tension, always high, was building. The one time in my life I had to call for an emergency therapy appointment, my therapist calmly made time for me. I showed up after work and flopped onto the wonderful couch, seriously so CRUSHED that I could not sit up by the realization I had just had. I had reached the tipping point. I knew--finally really KNEW--that though I had been operating under the not incorrect assumption for YEARS that leaving Brian would be the WORST THING EVER, staying with him would be even harder. I was completely paralyzed by my realization. There was no way that I was going to avoid doing something really, really hard, and I felt completely unequipped to do either thing. And my therapist was just as cool and respectful as ever. I don't remember what he said that day, but I suspect he was proud of me. I suspect he knew then that I would be just fine.
Of course it was a month or two before the break finally happened. But when it did, I made it final. I stuck to my guns, and severed all contact with Brian. After a couple months of terrible, terrible, terribleness, a big fat letter from him showed up in my mailbox. Oh no. I could feel the magnet buzzing VOOM VOOM VOOM. I gave it to my roommate, and she hid it so I wouldn't be tempted to open it. Because make no mistake, if I had opened it we would have been right back where we started, no matter what it said. It was a FORK IN THE ROAD. After a couple weeks, I took the letter to my therapy session and I burned it--UNOPENED--in the fireplace. No ceremony, no wise words. He just sort of WITNESSED it. And then, somehow, I was free.
Within a few months I moved on. We stayed in touch for awhile, had coffee once. And that was that. I still think of his relaxed wisdom, years and years later. I still remember him saying, there is so much to experience in this life, Nora. There is music, dance, art, literature, people, language. There is so much to explore.