Tuesday, April 22, 2008


On Tuesday afternoons I hide in the house and wait that the ghosts might go away. Twice, thrice, today I thought I would go out, but even at the door I found a reason to stay; a reason not to have to go into the world.

Art class. No, but I painted here a bit.

The gym for yoga. No, but I needed the rest.

The grocery store for food to make dinner. No, there was enough here to cook.

Also the phone rang. Wait and check the ID. No, there's voice mail for strangers; no need to answer immediately for anyone but Justin.

On Tuesday mornings I go to therapy--harder to say than admitting to physical therapy or the doctor--and then I'm tired. Very tired.

This morning I actually wanted to go there. On the way, I felt relieved. Like I was looking forward to letting someone take care of me for an hour; similar to the way that I feel when I go to get my haircut--for just an hour I will be the center of attention and that will be the way it is supposed to be. I was in that zone when I stopped for coffee--also a relatively self-centered action--and then ran into a neighbor and fellow artist. He already knew from Justin that we were moving to the beach, and since he's a surfer too I teased him with it. Then we ended up talking about Los Angeles and moving for a couple of minutes but I had to leave to go There. On my way to my car I realized I'd just had a conversation that was "all about me." I pledged that I would never talk about myself again. That I would only ask about how other people were doing. The next conversation I had with anyone would be all about them.

Of course by the time I started driving I even forgot to make the right turn and ended up a block ahead of where I meant to be driving. I also didn't want to go to therapy anymore. Which is what I told her when I first had to start talking.

"It's funny how we shift like that, isn't it?"

"Yeah, well that's kind of my thing."


"I'm always shifting," I made roller coaster hills with my hand. "It sucks! I haven't even been awake long enough to already go up and down." I fell back into the chair, sinking with exasperation.

She wanted to talk about my moving to LA, but I've been avoiding that so I kept on working at it. When she said, "Let's talk about that," I made up the antecedent and talked about not talking about myself. When she tried to push me toward the LA Subject, I moved to having friends--or not.

Eventually, we got to her Agenda for the Day (she so rarely has one, and here we were with two).

She's starting to do that thing I used to do when I was a teacher and the end of the year was coming. I'd get all sentimental about the kids, and how they were growing up, and in my own head I'd review the year and realize all that we had been through together. Mostly the kids would stare at me vacantly while they let time slip toward summer vacation, but I thought it was very important and I wanted to impart any last words of wisdom I could think of before they left my care.

So here we were, but this time I was avoiding the end (which it now occurs to me I have done intentionally or incidentally many times in my life) and she was prepping for it. The shitty thing is, I was just starting to like her and therapy. Just in time, as usual.

The breakthrough idea this Agenda was that we were coming to the close of our relationship ("unique" though it is) and even though I have so many issues with having a sense of abandonment and rejection, we were going to have to shift. In essence--and this time it is absolutely true, not just a figment of my abandoned friendless-friendship imagination--she is passing me on to another person so that they can take her place and do the job of Caring for Olaina instead.

We talked about being selfish for a while today. She said I was supposed to be selfish when I was a kid. She (and I suppose a bunch of other shrinks, too) has this theory that little kids are supposed to act like they are the center of the world and their parents are supposed to love them and support them in a co-starring role. For instance, if a kid is scared of thunder and lightening or monsters in the closet, a parent is supposed to say, "That must feel very scary, but I am here and we can listen to the thunder (or look in the closet) together and I won't leave you and we will be OK." Or something like that. I don't really get it--reason number three-bazillion-and-one why I should never be a parent. Supposedly, what a parent is not supposed to do is say, "There is nothing to be scared of," or "Don't be silly," or both of those things and cover the window with blankets in addition to the blinds so that the kid doesn't have to see the lightening. (I suppose the theory there is if it doesn't exist it can't be scary, and maybe the kid will fall asleep before the next flash and then won't hear the thunder?) The idea, I think, is that the parent is supposed to mirror the child.

I really don't get it.

I don't even remember why I'm writing about this idea. Oh, yeah. It's because I said something witty.

"I was supposed to be selfish when I was a kid!"


"And even when I was a teenager?" I answered my own question. "Everyone knows teenagers are selfish--they're the most selfish of all. Geez. That's probably why they have seven teachers by the time they get to high school. None of us can stand them enough to be the only one caring for them. It's not that we're such experts in our subject, well, maybe we are, but we just have to pass them around a bit."

She also said I was on one island before and now I'm moving through the marsh to get to another island.

"But people drown in the marsh!"

I think that analogy means:

On the first island I lived behind a lot of walls and my defenses were very strong. People didn't necessarily like it any better--they often censored what they said to me, I suppose because they didn't want to feel the pain when I lashed out--but I did a lot of work and won a lot of awards and people who gave it a thought figured that I must be doing OK because of my pretty resume. No one, not even I, knew why I acted so driven to succeed and no one really cared. Success happened to me and people enjoyed that I got things done, even if they didn't like my friendship.

Supposedly when I get to the next island I will have to know more. Or less. And succeed less, for sure. Or more. In a different way.

On the next island I have to be my best friend.

Yeah, I did just look at my computer screen funny. You can too.

I have to be my own friend. I have to like me. I have to accept that I have a mood disorder (as a writer making an analogy about a different mood disorder said on NPR today: it's a disease--like pancreatic cancer. But we don't put all the people with pancreatic cancer behind a closed door so that no one can see them and no one has to deal with them.) I have to accept my mood disorder as part of me, and I have to like myself--I have to like this person with a mood disorder. And that's me. (I'm still wrapping my head around it all.) I can't call myself stupid or say that I'm wrong or dumb or retarded or anything like that. I have to be nice to myself. It does bring me back to having to be gentle with myself, but going all the way to being nice. That's a little much.

You'd think that given my drive to succeed I could follow this one direction and be nice to myself. Especially since I am being told that being nice to myself might bring me success in the one arena I have always wanted to master.

Another irony--the only thing that has ever really mattered to me in life is making connections with other people and it is the only thing I have ever tried so hard to do well at and failed. Failed so miserably. (BE NICE!) I am a person who needs connections with other people to be able to feel fulfilled, and somehow I am not very good at maintaining those relationships. (Somehow...)

She says people do drown in the marsh. She doesn't think I'll make it all the way to the new island on my own--that I need help getting there, so I have to reach up and take the hand of the people who are trying to help me.

It turns out, one of the hands I have to take is my own.

The most important hand I have to take is my own.

1 comment:

OakMonster said...

You're right! You have to take your own hand. Be your own best friend. And it is TOTALLY okay to be SELF-ish. :)

When you're happy, then you can fill other people's happy bucket! If you're not happy, then it's like rescuing people from the marsh into a leaky boat.

So, you be happy. Be self-ish! We should get together and be self-ish! Actually, I have Saturday afternoon available. What are you doing?