Odd. “Who answers their phone now-a-days?” I thought.
I felt right away that he was a kindred spirit. In the sense that I was just the type of patient he was looking for. It was nice to have someone ask me questions. It was very satisfying to feel like I was a mystery just waiting to be solved. I’d missed having someone show an interest in me. I attended three sessions at most, but I remember wanting to know how the sessions should go.
I needed him to give me ground rules.
“How do you want me to behave?” I may as well have asked.
He was right, I had a lifelong habit of asking for permission. I took a very methodical approach to the therapy session and deduced that he didn’t necessarily want me to deliver all of the details along a tightly constructed timeline. So, I broke away from telling him the major points in a series of events that I personally believed to have had the most impact on my life. Sometimes, I interjected random details.
“She sat with her feet dangling in the pool while men skinny dipped on the other end and asked me if my parents knew where I was.”
But he refused to tell me I was insane. He resisted to diagnose me. Instead he did everything he could to show me I was normal.
He was Jewish and the office was small. It didn’t bother me that he was several years my senior. No matter what, I’d always felt like a little girl on the inside. He said I could sit anywhere. That some people prefer to sit in the recliner. That some sat on the couch. At first, I sat in the recliner, but it made a squeaking noise that distracted me, and it also felt strange to be in such a relaxed position while divulging details of my life. So, I moved to the sofa. We talked as if everything was business as usual, and I really did want to be o.k. He mentioned that I was too hard on myself. That I was a very accomplished woman and yet I seemed to be completely unaware. He had this vial of incense that he’d take out periodically to breathe, mentioning to me that he suffered severe headaches.
At some point, I was aware he’d never married and wondered if he liked women or men or both. His shoes were heavy, those therapeutic tennis shoes with two-inch soles. His hair was white and thin. He reminded me of my New Testament professor from back in community college. I knew he was a Jew because at some point in our session he’d said Christians don’t have a patent on guilt, and then mentioned his Jewish background. Regardless of whether he was a Jew, Christian, gay or straight, images flashed through my mind of us being intimate.
Would it be on the couch? Who would make the first move? If you’d seen him, you might worry about my own preferences. He was the type with long nose hairs. But nothing happened. I knew he was right. I needed to make a decision all on my own. I needed to become aware that asking permission wasn’t a requirement. I needed to see myself as a grown woman with the autonomy to make my own choices. Ever since then, probably having completed only three therapy sessions in all, I decided to make some very big decisions all on my own.
I remember, when I returned to his office after the first session where I’d laid out what I considered to be the major milestones of my life, he asked if I was o.k.
“O.k.? Yes, I’m o.k. What do you mean? I mean, I’m not entirely o.k. or I wouldn’t be here to begin with.”
He said, “Oh, it’s just that some people, once they reveal certain aspects of their life to me, at the second session they feel a sort of regret or possibly embarrassment.” He also went on to tell me that in all his years in practice he’d certainly never met anyone with my story.
“Surely that isn’t true.” I thought, hoping it was true.
It only made me feel an additional bit of shame that I hadn’t experienced any regret whatsoever after laying out my life to him. Perhaps I should have? I only wished to get to a solution as quickly as possible by sharing all the sticking points so he wouldn’t have to dig for what may have been wrong.
There was something I’d left out though, as I’m sure he could have imagined. There always is.
Something too intimate and dare I say sacred to share.