Monday, August 12, 2013

Column Throwback Week #1: In which I have a heart-to-heart with my therapist

I was going through some old things last week and realized something: I've never shared some of my favorite newspaper columns with you, friends. I was a weekly newspaper columnist for two years before I started blogging, and I suppose I just never got around to posting those columns here. So! I thought this -- being one of the last lazy, hazy weeks of summer -- would be the perfect time to post a selection of my favorites from those early years. These are my favorite columns you haven't read, and I hope you enjoy them. As always, feel free to leave your comments below or send me an email (mellow1422 [at] aol). The first topic? Something I know all too well: Therapy...

During one of my three-hour lunches recently, I sat in my mother's cozy room. The ceiling fan swirled cool air, and outside the window, I could see a tall green tree reflected against a classic early autumn sky. I sat in my own private cocoon. It may have been the tail end of summer, yes, but I felt myself sinking into a mini-hibernation. A place of deep contemplation. A place where the streets are lined, not with gold, but with an endless row of question marks, topped off with a few "whys” and "hows” for good measure. But what was my case? What was my inner demon?

During one of my first counseling sessions a few months ago (this was after I completed nearly 90 sessions with my previous therapist, just to give you some perspective), my official-looking therapist wasted no time in getting down to business.

"Where would you like to start?” he asked, a large pen poised over what looked like 20 sheets of paper. Am I really that far gone, I wondered? I sat there for a moment. Stunned. In the silence, I pondered that blunt question. I pictured my little universe. My fears, my anxiety, my quirks -- they all spun and revolved around change. Why do we try so hard to make our lives fit into that box we've neatly tied with a fluffy bow? Why are we so scared to turn with the tide of change?
The closest diagnosis I can muster is a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I do things in a certain order -- I eat every morsel of my lunch in a certain order, with the crackers always coming first. I do things a certain way -- four squirts of soap each time I wash my hands. I simply like my universe to be ordered and predictable. Apparently, this worried said therapist. He looked me squarely in the eyes and asked, "What does this fear of change look like?”

Another blunt question. Does this man know Dr. Phil? Again, I thought for a moment -- or two or three. Then the image flashed crystal clear across my mind. It was a cave I'd envisioned before. A large cave. A dark cave. I stood in front of it, unable to get my footing. I feared entering its hollow walls, thinking I'd be forever lost in its damp maze. And it was a deep cave. You can't see ahead, and you didn't have a flashlight. Not even a candle to guide your way. So I resigned myself to standing outside the cave. Maybe I was standing guard, darting my eyes in every direction to make sure everything stayed exactly the same. Forever.

See, I could explain what I was doing, but I hadn't a clue why, even though I know that it's quite idiotic to think life, your career, even your hairstyle will be constants in your life. But that cave. What is there to be afraid of? Maybe that cave represents my new life after my father's suicide. I don't want to say hello to this cave because that would mean saying goodbye to my old life. As I tightly grip the past, I'm desperately trying to keep my old life alive. The flame's going out, but I keep relighting it as if carrying the candle into the cave with me will seemingly blend the two. Life doesn't promise stability. It falsely advertises it, but in the end, it never delivers. The only certainty is uncertainty.
"Sometimes you need a rainy day," said my cousin over lunch one day. She's 17. What a smart girl. Maybe I need to step outside and get a little wet. I don't want to sink in the rip tide anymore. I want to stand on the shore, letting the water rush across the tips of my toes, and welcome the incoming waves, no two waves ever exactly alike.

[Photos via We Heart It]

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