May 10, 2013 § 4 Comments
I only saw the therapist with the long stares twice. In that time, her stretched-out stares made me feel as though we had enjoyed weekly visits for years and that we had walked all the way to the end of my earth and returned again with the sun setting on our backs. She may have even come to a few of my landmark birthday parties, later, when we became friends. I bought her a bracelet that looked like driftwood trapped in silver and she met my mother and they talked about canning vegetables with a knowing kindness. This is not to say she made me feel comfortable. No. She did not make me feel comfortable. But I sat right down in the armchair of my discomfort and I suppose I’m glad I tried to settle into her quiet strangeness.
I finally made the first appointment after months of talking about it. As soon as I made the appointment, I felt better. This is how it is with self-care, with professional help, we procrastinate because we think we can do it all alone, and when we finally admit we need help, when we make an appointment with an understanding that business will occur, we feel better, cleansed and ready to take on more of life’s weight. I was propelled towards the professional lamp because of all the thoughts flying around inside of me, like moths that seem frantic and stupid in the light and cryptically morbid in the dark. Even though I had watched the YouTube video posted on her website in which she talked about her focus, I still wasn’t prepared to know her when I saw her. It is a small thing but I was so surprised to feel a clicking into place, like Lego pieces that make the right sound against the soft carpet of your bedroom. This therapist, this fellow human, standing in the doorway of her single-room office, was someone I had seen many times before. I had seen her riding the bus, almost every day on my way to work, a few years ago, in an even weirder time, and there she was, welcoming me into her professional realm. When I used to see her on the bus, I always stared at her, because she is a unique-looking person. She did not look like a therapist to me. She looked like she belonged to a yet-to-be-named tribe in a fantasy quest novel. But she wore regular clothing and placid facial expressions. I wondered if she recognized me. I didn’t ask her. It seemed like a silly thing to ask. It’s really hard not to wonder what your new therapist thinks of you.
So we sat down. We began to talk. And I thought about other things. She had art on the walls, they were her paintings I realized, she had painted these four landscapes of sand, miles of sand with sharp ridges, and thick, burnt colours. Stop looking at the paintings and picturing your new therapist painting in a man’s shirt for a smock. I was so aware of how aware I was of everything. She used white sugar, the bag was open over there at her small tea station next to her tidy desk, I thought she’d use brown or raw sugar. She didn’t have a clock. The couch was blue, what colour blue was the couch. My hands were squished under my legs, why was I hiding my hands, I’d keep them there, I’d rather not fidget, I was fidgeting, she was watching me look at my hands as though I’d just realized they’re mine. I couldn’t turn it off, the birds eye, the shy cyclops, the dancing left foot.
She asked, “Do you remember a time when you could just be?” No. I could not. I said that made me feel sad because even if there was a time, I couldn’t remember it and that was maybe even more sad that no clear memories came to mind.
She didn’t take any notes. I thought I liked that at first. But then. Then I realized if she wasn’t taking notes she would always be looking at me. Of course we had the stare-off. Do you know it? I finished a thought and she said nothing, just looked at me continuously with no break, as is done when one is staring. I looked at the floor, the carpet was not very interesting, I looked back at her, gave her a weak smile, exhaled as though it meant something, she kept staring with her oddly maddening tranquility, I found great interest in the white sugar again, she almost picked up my gaze and lifted it back to her, I made a face instead, it’s probably the most ridiculous facial arrangement I’ve ever composed, when is she going to ask me a fucking question, should I make light conversation, perhaps I’ll inquire about her qualifications, is my skin slightly yellow in this light, I should do laundry when I get home, look at this urban view she has, it’s not bad, a little grey, pigeons are a funny bird, they’re like sky rats that are always on the ground –
She asked, “What are you thinking right now?” I sputter a bit. Appropriate response, searching, generating, loading page, buffering, refreshing. I tell her something. I don’t remember what it was but I’ll tell you, it wasn’t what I was really thinking.
Here’s what I wish I had said: “With all due respect to you and your profession, I think the idea that we should, “Just Be” is a bunch of bullshit.”