I had my therapy session this morning. First of all, the temp has dropped considerably, which makes me a happy camper. Autumn is definitely here–and it’s my second favorite season. No, you get no bonus points for guessing my first since I’m not exactly reticent about it.
Anyway, I walked into my therapist’s office and started blathering about how I’ve lost my momentum since my mom left. After my therapist listened to me list my dissatisfaction with myself, she asked a seemingly non sequitur question. She said, “Minna, what are you going to do after I’m gone?” I looked blankly at her. She said, “Not on my vacation, but after I retire.” I stared at her, and she hastened to add, “I’m not sick or anything, but I’m a month away from 61. I want to retire when I’m 65. 4 years is not that long.”
I admit, my first reaction was sheer panic. I have been with her for some time, and it freaked me out to imagine not having her in my life. But, that was her point. I have been steadily gaining momentum in the last year and a half or so (with setbacks, of course), and I can’t afford to slide back again.
Four years ago, I was saying I would have a house by the time I was forty. Well, I’m going to be forty in eight months, and I will not have that house. It’s not that I couldn’t have a house by then, but it’s that I am not prepared to make that decision by then. Am I closer to making that decision? Definitely. Am I there yet? No.
Here’s the thing. I haven’t had to be a full adult yet in my life. I haven’t had to face the consequences of really failing. Now, it’s time for me to put away childish things and be an adult. And, if there is no external reason for that to happen, then I have to make it internal.
Back to my therapist’s question. After my initial panic faded a bit, I thought about it. I said that what I got from her was clarity and a new perspective. However, I had other people in my life who functioned in similar ways, and what’s more, I often times know ahead of time what her response will be (though it’s not as elegant in my head as it is when she says it). We have been together so long, I know what her basic tenets are. She is not always going to be there. And, I tend to think, “Oh, I am going to bring this to therapy and talk about it” before making a decision. That’s not a bad idea with big, tough, grappling issues, but it can be a way for me to avoid having to make any decision at all on my own.
And, then I thought about that in application to the rest of my life. I tend to say things like, “Oh, my mom is going to be here for two months. I can’t do anything else while I deal with that.” “I will start looking into publishing after my mom leaves.” What I realized in therapy is that I subconsciously had the view of putting life on hold while these episodic events happened. Hello?!!! Life is made up of episodic events. Duh! And, there will always be something happening that I consider an interruption to my real life–because that’s what life is about.
Another thing we talked about was the party I attended on Saturday. I said what gracious hosts Stewart and Kendra were and that I had a good time. However, I walked away feeling melancholy because they had a version of what I wanted. They live in a complex of artists’ lofts, and their apartment is really neat. They both are gainfully employed. On the side, he is an artist and a performance artist. She is a belly-dancer. They have two adorable cats (I got that part), and they have each other. Their relationship may not be traditional, but that only adds to the intrigue. That’s what I wanted (in a general shape), and it seemed so far away.
My therapist told me she was glad I felt some melancholy because that meant that I was still in the ‘let’s get going’ phase. Since I tend to drift toward inertia, it’s dangerous for me to let the melancholy settle in too much as I will use that as an excuse not to do anything.
Choolie and I have had several conversations about our perfectionist tendencies. It goes something like this. I think, “Oh, I have so much to do. I have to do this and this and this. I can’t do it all perfectly, so I won’t do any of it!” Then the self-shaming and self-blaming enter the picture, and it’s a great excuse not to do anything.
I talked about this in therapy, too. My mom and I have cobbled together a working relationship. I have a list of jobs I am supposed to do for her, none of them editing-related, and I’ve been letting it slide because I fucking HATE that shit. I really hate housecleaning with a passion.
On a related note, my mom has been bugging me to get my resume to her so she can disseminate it to her students who have to write papers in English–which, obviously, is not their first language. I have been hesitant because I am not sure I want to get that much more entwined with my mother. And yet, as I mused, it’s really actually the American way to get a job through your connections. And, as the subject is sandplay therapy, I would at least be interested as I edited, unlike when I edit economic papers.
My therapist reframed the issue for me. She said, “Doing editing would help you make money in a way that is not completely disagreeable, and it will help you to meet your end goal, be it renting an apartment or buying a house.” That’s part of being an adult, in other words. Doing things that you don’t love with an eye out for the end game.
So, here are the twin points. On one day, I can pick an item from the list and say, “I am going to be an adult about this today. I don’t want to do it, but I do want to earn the money that will help me pay for my utilities.” The next day, I can pick an item and say, “This fucking sucks, man. I hate this shit!” and do the chore anyway. I can rebel, in other words, complete with slamming doors and listening to loud music.
I haven’t written any fiction for a few months for a variety of reasons. One is that I feel if I don’t do the work I need to do, I shouldn’t do anything pleasurable. The second reason is that while I love writing, I hate the process of trying to get my work published. It’s tedious and humiliating and blah blah blah. I would rather not sully my beautiful mind with such things, but it’s inevitable. I have commented before that I don’t like to do the hard thing, and it’s true. I will go out of my way to avoid the difficult parts of a task–which, of course, ends up creating more work for me in the end.
Another thing I realized–I can always quit, say, editing for my mother’s students if I decide I don’t want to do it any longer. I can always break a lease or even walk away from a house (though I don’t necessarily advise it). Nothing is permanent. This is important for me to remember as I tend to get bogged down in, “I’ll be stuck here FOREVER!!!!!”
My therapist will be on vacation next week. She informed me that she wanted me to start on this list right away and not wait for her to return because that would be two more weeks gone.
So. Here is where you, my loyal posse, enters the picture. Whenever you see me around, be it in person, on the nets, or wherever, I want you to say to me, “Hey, Minna, have you done one of those items on your shit list yet?” or, “Hey, Minna, how’s it going being an adult today?” I will most likely curse you and be pissed at you, but I will take your words to heart. As Choolie knows, my initial response to anything is, “Fuck you!” However, I will listen to what is said and digest it later, gleaning from it what I need to know. It’s the same with people prodding me to do what I need to do. Initially, I resist and am resentful, but in the end, I am grateful that I have people who care enough to nudge me.
However, my therapist is right. She is not going to be around forever, and ultimately, I am the one who has to get shit down. I would do well to remember that.