Therapy Sessions, 3.0

Therapy Sessions, 3.0

The following week I sit in Starbucks thinking about my assignment. How exactly does one take their power back? Will I even notice the moments I’m giving it away? I will do the best I can but the assignment isn’t really landing with me.

My sign is up but there aren’t many people coming in and out. It is a little late for coffee but that usually doesn’t stop anyone. Maybe they’re trying to start the week off a little differently- who knows. I pull out my journal to at least make the time worthwhile when a man approaches me.

Stranger Danger: Is anyone sitting here?

I immediately label this person as dangerous because he is my type. At least when I had a type. Before I was married. He would be it. And I’m married but I’m not dead. I’m married. He can’t sit here.

Can I also say a year ago, when my relationship was still… as good as it ever was, this wouldn’t have been a problem. I wouldn’t have noticed his smile. Or those eyes. Those eyes with the slight wrinkles in the corners. Am I the only one that finds that attractive?

He can’t sit here.

Take back your power.

B: Actually this seat is only for people who want to have conversation with me. Would you mind sitting somewhere else?

SD: Now you know you can’t do that.

B: I do, but I guess I’m counting on the kindness of strangers here.

SD: Well I’m sorry, I want to sit here so…

He sits. Take back what I said. I think he’s a jerk.

A moment passes. He slides me a dollar. I can’t help it, I smile. He smiles too and the corners of his eyes wrinkle.

If I’m smart I’ll leave.

B: So what do you want to talk about?

SD: Well let’s see. We could talk about the weather.

B: Classic.

SD: We could talk about how our days were.

B: Another go to.

SD: But can I be honest with you?

B: Absolutely.

SD: I’ve had a long day, I had to talk to a ton of different people I didn’t want to. How about we sit here, sip our drinks and watch the world go by?

If I were smart I would’ve left.

SD: What do you say?

I guess I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

B: Of course.

Therapy Sessions, 2.4

Where are you right now?

I’m here.

Is all of you here?

Yes. 100%.

Beautiful. How are you?

I feel better today.

Better? How was your week?

Poor.

Why?

The same reason everyone else is sad and stressed and upset.

I see.

How can I remain hopeful when everything seems so bleak?

Why do things seem bleak?

 

I turn to look at her. A moment passes and then I return to staring at the ceiling.

 

Why do things seem bleak?

 

She asks again.

This chick

I don’t look at her. I take a moment and remember she’s trying to help me. So I ask myself the question.

 

Why do things seem bleak, beyond the obvious answer?

 

I gave my power away.

Hmm. (Which means go deeper.)

I gave it away because it was easier than fighting back.

Hmm.

Because I wanted someone to blame.

So are things bleak?

Yes.

But?

I’m not powerless.

Exactly.

Bethesda?

Yes?

You know that’s true in everything. Not just this world saving project you’ve taken on. It’s true in your marriage. It’s true at work. It’s true in your brain. But you know that.

I do know that. I just forget occasionally.

I want you to focus this week on taking your power back. I don’t want you to blame anyone else for anything. I want you to think about what you’ve done to get yourself in a situation and what you can do to get yourself out. And don’t run, live through it.

 

But some things are other people’s fault. I mean, I didn’t do this.

No you didn’t. But you’re here now. So focus on what you can do, not what they did. Because that is done.

You make it sound easy.

It’s not. Do it anyway.

 

This chick.

 

Can you do that?

Of course.

Therapy Sessions, 2.3

A Moment with Bethesda

 

I’ve never lost a bet.

Because I don’t bet.

You can’t lose if you don’t try.

But you can’t win either.

I’m not one to take chances. I married my high school sweetheart. I took and stayed at the first job that called me out of college. I’ve lived a life that made sense and didn’t require much from me but in the end… I haven’t gotten much out of it. I’m lonelier than I’ve ever been. I’m more bored at work than should be humanly possible. (How many paper clips does it take for my coworker to finally pour out that cup of coffee?) I feel as mediocre as a person can feel without just calling it failure. All in between moments of happiness and freedom and joy and never actually experiencing them. Always looking back at what’s behind and forward at what could be but never moving in either direction. I feel like I’m living life on a bus, passing through good neighborhoods with families and swing sets and bad neighborhoods with people rushing to and from nowhere because they have no place to be. Meanwhile, I’m comfortable and safe in my air conditioned/perfectly heated bubble waiting for a stop that doesn’t come. I am miserable in my misery, and guilty for even having the thought of unhappiness.  After all, things could be worse.

 

But they could be better.

 

And that’s why I’ve never lost a bet.

 

 

 

The answer is fifteen. Fifteen paper clips.

Therapy Sessions, 2.2

As I’m shifting positions to get in my “doctor” spot, two men walk in mid conversation. Today is proving to be an excellent day for eavesdropping.

 

Man #1: If a tree falls in the forest-

Man #2: No one hears it.

Man #1: Is this glass half full or-

Man #2: It’s half empty. Without question.

Man #1: So… do you think you’re a negative person?

Man #2: Not at all. I just see things as they are.

Man #1: So the grass is never greener on the other side?

Man #2: Well it could be. They could be using a different grass seed, different fertilizer- there are too many options there. So the grass could be greener on the other side.

Man #1: So metaphors don’t land with you-

Man #2: Oh, if we’re thinking metaphorically then… no my answer is still the same. Some people’s lives are better than others. Some people have an easier time accumulating wealth, making friends- I guess I don’t understand why acknowledging these things is a bad way to live.

Man #1: Not bad per se, it’s just… you make people uncomfortable.

Man #2: No I don’t.

Man #1: Liza said you ruined her birthday party.

Man #2: Are you kidding?

Man #1: Well you did tell everyone the restaurant didn’t have an “employees must wash hands sign”-

Man #2: Because they didn’t-

Man #1: As they put the food on the table. And you told her she wasn’t getting any younger and should probably get pregnant soon-

Man #2: Because she isn’t-

Man #1: As she blew out her candles.

Man #2: Well… maybe that was bad timing on my part.

Man #1: Maybe.

 

A Pause.

 

Man #1: You’re one of my best friends.

Man #2: And you’re one of mine.

Man #1: Do you think you could chill a little bit?

Man #2: Change?! For Liza?!

Man #1: She’s my wife Brian. I feel awkward enough just having this conversation.

Brian: Fine.

Man #1: Great. Alright-

Brian: But-

Man #1: I knew it-

Brian: Tell my sister to get a sense of humor.

Man #1: For you- of course.

Therapy Sessions, 2.1

I get to Starbucks a little late the next day after a terrible argument with my husband. I don’t know that I’m in a headspace to help anyone but sitting in our one bedroom apartment will not fix anything. I buy my tea and turn to find two women sitting in my usual seat and therapist’s chair. I’m annoyed but I sit nearby hoping I can grab the spots once they get up and immediately forget my problems listening to their conversation.

 

G1: I’m not going to call him.

G2: Good. Don’t.

Silence.

G1: But you don’t think-

G2: No. No I don’t.

G1: So you don’t see.

G2: Nope. I totally don’t see it.

Silence.

G1: My thing is-

G2: I know what your thing is.

G1: And you still don’t?

G2: And I still don’t.

G1: You’re cold.

G2: But that’s why I’m never in these situations.

Silence.

G2: Don’t-

G1: But-

G2: Not going to happen-

G1: But-

G2: Not possible.

G1: Even-

G2: Even if. Not a thing.

G1: Wow.

G2: It is what it is.

G1: Don’t pull that.

G2: What do you want me to say?

G1: Anything else. Literally, anything else.

G2: Can’t. Won’t. You know why?

G1: Why?

G2: Because I’m your actual friend.

G1: I know.

G2: We have to go.

G1: Right.

 

They gather their bags and cups and exit. There’s only one thing on my mind after they leave- what were they talking about? I look at another woman and the same question is etched into her features.

 

“And we’ll never know.”

“Of course not.”

 

Of course not.

Therapy Sessions, 2.0

The first test of the promise I made to Dr. Moscow came rather suddenly. I had been sitting in Starbucks for all of two minutes, ready to ease into my second week when a woman sat down next to me. She looked like she was twenty five but lack of sleep and stress had worn her down quite a bit.

 

Can I sit here?

Absolutely.

I don’t need to talk I just need to… sit. For a minute.

That’s fine.

No offense. I appreciate what you’re doing here.

None taken.

It’s just that I’m stressed out. And I need a minute to just sit.

No problem.

I know I seem crazy-

Not at all-

But I just had a baby. Three weeks ago.

Congratulations!

Thank you. She’s amazing. She’s adorable. My husband and I are in love with her.

That sounds amazing.

But she doesn’t sleep. She won’t sleep. She doesn’t take naps. I feel like she’s always awake. And of course I can’t sleep knowing my baby is awake, so we just lay there staring at each other until it starts.

Until what starts?

The crying. And once that starts, it goes on forever. I rock her. I change her. I feed her. I sing to her- and I can’t sing. I sound like an angry toad but I’m so desperate. “What’s wrong you?” I ask over and over and again and then I say “what’s wrong with you?” to myself because this three week old person can’t tell me “hey I’m thinking about my past life” or “I’m desperately hungry but I’m not interested in drinking anything right now” or “I don’t like your deodorant smell” so then I think I’m crazy for talking to a new born but what else can I do I feel like I’m going crazy.

Does your husband help?

He does everything he can, he’s terrific but I’m her source right now, he can’t do everything I can do so we tag team baby care but at the end of the day, I’m mommy and I want to do a good job so I get up as much as I can and do as much as I can but I’m exhausted and I feel like all my hair is falling out.

You know that’s not true right-

Of course I know but it’s still alarming to see a drain full of hair when you take a shower. When I get to take a shower.

So you just need a minute.

And I can’t have caffeine because then she has caffeine- it’s a whole thing. How can I be in love with someone that drives me crazy?

That’s just how these things go.

Oh I heard- but you never believe it until it happens to you. You always think my baby won’t cry, my baby will sleep through the night, on and on and on.

True.

The things we say to ourselves.  

 

Alright.

(She puts a dollar in my hand.)

You don’t-

I want to. You earned it. Thank you.

You know it’ll be alright, right?

I do. Because even though it’s been five minutes, I miss that face already.

(We exchange smiles.)

 

Of course. 

Therapy Sessions, 1.4

I see Dr. Moscow every Friday. She suggested that I get out of the house and try connecting with other human beings, that I provide a service and stop being self-centered. I like to think I will become less self-centered when I center myself but... we’ll see. She starts every session the same way, with a question, the same question.

 

Where are you right now?

I’m here.

Is all of you here?

No.

Where are you?

I’m in Starbucks. I’m at home. I’m in the park.

So you know what I’m going to ask.

Yes. Will I be fully present for this hour?

Will you?

Yes.

Thank you.

 

How was your week?

Sad.

How so?

I did what you said. I connected with others. People are sad. They’re lonely. They’re confused. They’re angry.

And why does that make you sad?

Because I’m empathetic. I understand why they’re sad. If I’m going to connect I have to be willing to feel what they feel.

But there has to be a line. Bethesda still has to go home at night and deal with her own problems. I don’t feel like I have any problems compared to these people.

Now why would you do that?

Do what?

Compare your problems to other people’s problems?

I don’t know.

You know what you’re doing?

No.

Comparing yourself to other people. Comparing your pain to other people’s pain. Why would you do that?

I don’t know.

 

I guess because-

You guess?

I don’t know.

You do know.

Because I’m running from my own issues. It’s easier this way. If I don’t feel sorry for myself I don’t have to feel my hurt.

That’s a fruitless endeavor and you know that.

I do.

You also don’t have to feel sorry for yourself to feel your pain.

I don’t.

But?

But it’s easier.

If you wanted an easy route, would you be in therapy?

I don’t know.

 

No. I wouldn’t.

So what’s the plan?

To find a way to empathize without comparing my pain to theirs.

Can you do this?

Yes.

 

Yes!

Good. See you next week?

Of course.

Therapy Sessions, 1.3

I only have a moment before a teen boy comes over to me and sits down. He can’t be older than fifteen. He’s also incredibly fidgety. For the first time I’m uncomfortable because of the person and not because of the circumstances.

 

I'm nervous.

Okay.

Aren't you supposed to ask me why?

Do you want me to ask?

Yes.

Okay, why are you nervous?

I'm scared I'm going to do something stupid.

Why would you do that?

Because I have no reason not to. No one would care if I did.

How do you know?

My father left when I was two. My mom has two five year olds to manage. I think...I think if I disappeared no one would notice. If I died no one would notice.

You don't think you matter?

No I don't. I mean if I did my father wouldn't have left.

I can tell that you're smart. I trust you know that's not true.

Well can you explain to me how you abandon half of yourself? How do you leave a baby? Especially after two years. He knew me. He watched my first steps and helped me learn my first words. What was so wrong with me that he left?

Let me tell you something I've learned that will save you a lot of trouble.

What?

Nothing is about you.

What?

Nothing that happens is about you. The only person thinking about you all the time is you. And if you're ever lucky enough to meet a genuine friend or have someone love you, even they aren't thinking about you all the time.

That just makes me feel even less significant.

It shouldn't. There's freedom in knowing that. Do you know what that means?

No.

Yes you do. Try.

It means...it wasn't about me?

Exactly. It wasn't about you. Him leaving wasn't about you.

It was about him.

Right. And you know what else is great? You are free to make the same choices he did. You can stay or you can go. Now are you sure no one would miss you?

I guess the twins would.

And your mom. And your friends. And everyone else that has ever had the pleasure of meeting you.

I guess.

I know. Trust me, you're more important than you realize. I want to give you the name of my therapist-

Oh my mom can’t afford that.

Okay. Will you take this card anyway? And if you ever feel nervous you’ll do something stupid, will you talk to someone?

Yes… I’ll try. Can I come back and talk to you again if I need to?

Of course.

Therapy Sessions, 1.2

I sit. I sip. I wait. A young black girl walks by; she’s barely twenty, if that. She sees the sign and continues walking. I then see her walk by again, this time pausing to make eye contact. I smile to encourage her and she heads toward the door.

 

Is this a real thing?

Yes.

But why?

People need someone to talk to. I want to help.

What are you getting out of it?

Nothing. Everything. Do you want to talk?

Maybe.

Okay.

I hate myself.

Why?

I hate the way they treat me. I hate the way they look at me. I hate my skin. I hate my hair. I hate myself. I hate the way I am. I wish I were different. I wish I looked different. I can’t do anything right. I’m the worst. I wish I were different.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

 

You are just right. The way you are. Is there anything you love? Anyone you love?

I love Beyoncé.

Why do you love her and not yourself?

Well she’s perfect. She does everything perfectly all the time. She’s the ideal. Who am I compared to her?

You are a person. And you don’t know her; you only see the tiniest sliver of her life. You’re with yourself 24/7. How can you even compare? How do you even know she’s perfect?

That’s what it seems like.

“Seeming like” and “being” are two different things.  If I just look at you walking by I could think you’re perfect. Your hair looks great, your skin is perfect, you have a beautiful smile- if I compare you in that one moment to me all the time, you seem perfect.

That’s ridiculous.

You’re doing the same exact thing to her.

That’s different.

Why, because she’s famous? She’s a talented human being. She’s a wonderful performer. But she is still a person and no person is perfect.

 

Are you listening to her music? She wants every woman to know how beautiful and special and worthy of love they are. You’re doing a big disservice to her and yourself if you don’t receive that message- if you spend all of your time looking at her and not listening to her, what is it all for?

Well society still tells me I’m not good enough.

This is true. You’ll never be good enough for society. There will always be something wrong with you according to them.

So what do I do? How do I live knowing I’m not good enough?

You change who you’re trying to be good enough for.

What does that even mean?

It means you stop worrying about what other people think and do what you think is best. You wear the clothes you like, the hairstyle you like, be the woman that you want to be. Be proud of your skin, your hair- be proud of yourself.

How? How do I not care?

It’s not easy. You will never stop wanting to be loved and approved of. But if you love yourself and approve of yourself, eventually you won’t notice that they don’t like what you’re doing- you’ll be too busy loving yourself.

Is it possible?

Yes. More than possible. It is.

 

 

Okay.

 

Thank you.

Of course.

Therapy Sessions, 1.1

Therapy Sessions, 1.1

The first person that sat down was an older Caucasian man, at least 65 years old. He was balding but fit; slightly stooped in his posture but otherwise he appeared healthy. He sat on the stool next to me and stared out the window for a moment. Then he reached into his wallet and pulled out $1. He slid it over to me. I put it in my pocket and waited.

My name is Steven.

Hello Steven.

My wife died last week.

I’m sorry to hear that.

Thank you, but I don’t need that.

What?

I don’t need to hear that. Everyone is telling me how sorry they are. I don’t need sympathy. I need friendship. My wife was my best friend. We talked from the moment we woke up until we fell asleep at night. I miss my friend. Now everyone treats me like I’m a sad old man. I’m not. I’m old. And I’m sad. But I’m more than that. I’m more than people think I am. But you can’t wear a sign claiming to not be what people think you are. Because then-

You’re the crazy old man wearing a sign. And you are whatever that sign says.

Yes. So. Will you just talk to me?

What do you want to talk about?

Nothing. Anything. The way Susan and I would.

Susan and Steven? Sounds like you were the perfect couple.

He laughs.

We weren’t. We got on each other’s nerves all day every day.

But you were best friends-

Yes, but that doesn’t mean we always got along. We would argue, stop speaking, you name it, we did it.

So how were you best friends?

When it was all said and done, she’s the only one I wanted to talk to. So if something happened-

You’d tell her anyway-

Even if we weren’t speaking. Somehow sharing an incident that happened in the grocery store meant more to me than being right about an argument. A joke about a pile of melons falling would always lead to us laughing and working through the issue. She was truly-

Your best friend.

Yes.

A moment of silence passes. I sip my tea and wait. A tear streams down Steven’s face. He wipes it quickly and gets up.

Thank you-

Bethesda.

Thank you Bethesda. I’d better be getting home now.

Of course.

Therapy Sessions, 1.0

I guess it started because I was lonely.

That’s hard to admit.

Loneliness is such a weak word- or at least it implies weakness. It implies I need something outside of myself to be whole or complete.

And I hate that.

I hate that I’m lonely in my marriage. It’s been three years. And I’m already wishing…I don’t know what I’m wishing for. Maybe just friendship. Companionship. To feel loved. I don’t know. It’s complicated.

If you’re going to take this journey with me, you should know that that’s my cop out. If I say “it’s complicated” or “I’m too busy to talk about this” it means I’ve hit a brick wall in my psyche that won’t let me say or think the truth. God I hope it’s say. If I can’t think the truth that means I’m not even close to fixing the problem.

Not that there is a problem.

It’s complicated.

You see what I mean?

So in my quest for companionship and meaning and love I decided to sit in Starbucks with a tiny sign that said “conversation, $1.” It felt weird to sit there with that sign, practically screaming to the world “I want someone to talk to” but I had to get over myself and at least try to enjoy the process. With a $3 cup of tea as my justification for being there, I sat in the window of Starbucks ready to talk to anyone who needed it.

 I never realized there were that many people as lonely as I was.